Crisis management crisis

Crisis management: Three or four word problem in a crisis

By Robert Masters

There is a major problem for business today facing a crisis or issue in the public domain.

We are in the midst of a bubble that is now international, with the crisis with Malaysian Airlines disasters and the conflict in the Middle East.

If you do not master the three or four word principles of crisis or issues management you will flounder.

However, you have a very good case study in the Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s handling of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 tragedy, and all sectors could do no better than take a leaf out of his book.

He displayed his strong understanding of the communication principles behind effective crisis management and put them into effect with precision and timeliness.

Acknowledgement, Sympathy and Action – the three principles of sound crisis management – were on display for all to see and study.

He also ensured that the supporting platform for the principles were also in place – Defend, Deny, Defer or Deflect.

He left the Australian community, and the superpowers, in no doubt that Australia was going to take strong action with the tragedy when he called on the world to ensure that the victims were brought home as expeditiously as possible and that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

His actions with families, international leaders and at the United Nations highlighted that he was not going to defer any decisions to a later date.

His naming of those responsible for the event highlighted that he was deflecting any doubts about who was responsible for the tragedy to the Rebels and Russia and what needed to be done to address this issue.

Further, he put into place a nationwide movement – which is now international – of sympathy and grieving for the families of the victims.

The Prime Minister implemented a most effective crisis management strategy that should be studied by all sectors.

To learn more about the three and four word foundations of effective crisis management contact Robert Masters & Associates, experts in effective crisis and issues management, planning, training and implementation.


ICG Auto

RMKA Auto tailors solutions for the vehicle industry

Automotive Public Relations by RMKA

The pace of day-to-day business in a dynamic sector such as automotive shows every sign of continuing to increase.

Add to this the tough and competitive nature of the Australian market and it is easy to see why many companies in the automotive sector carry limited specialist resources.

RMKA has identified a need for highly experienced key support services, both strategic and operational, to assist companies operating at all levels of the automotive industry.

The result is the creation of a suite of services that harnesses RMKA’s indepth history and extensive knowledge in automotive communication, and focuses these skills with the benefit of an equally comprehensive experience-base in the automotive business.

RMKA has identified key areas of support where the consultancy can add value by addressing specific communication, marketing and research needs.

RMKA Auto has been created to make it easier for executives in the automotive industry to match their needs to the skills and services that RMKA can bring in helping to meet business objectives.

Crisis Management – Spot & Stop Crises Before They Stop Your Business

Successful crisis management is more than just damage control. One of the critical features is the continual tracking of relevant issues and the ongoing management of an organization’s communication relationships.

Trying to do this when the crisis is in full swing is certainly leaving it too late.

Any organization with significant stakeholder and/or public exposure should have an issues management plan in place, enabling timely and efficient response, should a media crisis ensue.

An issues management plan tracks the development of matters that could develop negatively and puts in place actions to prepare for relevant internal and external engagement. It should be part of the staple operations kit of any Communication operator and, most importantly, the senior management group and Board.

It is the necessary precursor to the crisis management process that rolls into action when an issue ‘blows-up’.

Unless you track issue development and plan to handle communication around your risks, you are always going to scramble to get on top of the information demand in a crisis.

The recent VW case provides a perfect example of this.

The effective use of an issues management plan could have provided the company with the tools and opportunity to talk to staff, suppliers, dealers, customers and media much earlier and could well have defused the whole issue.

An organization’s leadership can reap significant rewards from effective issues management resulting in positive pre-crisis communication.

Handling problems properly can actually result in positive media attention, strong stakeholder advocacy and enhanced relations with governments and industry organizations.

The alternative can be both painful and costly.

Robert Masters

The Price of Silence

The Price of Silence – Crisis Management in Media Engagement

The recent Fairfax vs. VW battle has brought into sharp relief the need for organisations with any public exposure to be well prepared to handle the media in a crisis situation.

The best preparation is, of course, to be fully across an emerging issue, to engage with media at an early stage thus maximising the chances of minimising negative coverage.

Once the issue becomes live in the media there is a need for a clear processes to actively manage the situation; remembering that the modern media encompasses online, where the spread of information may well be consumer-to-consumer.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, in the words of noted British Historian and Scholar C. Northcote Parkinson:  “The vacuum created by a failure to communicate will quickly be filled with rumor, misrepresentation, drivel and poison.”

VW Australia endured two weeks of relentless negativity from Fairfax publications, much of it believed to be unfair and incorrect, but the damage had been done.

Avoiding such an outcome is entirely possible. It requires the development and implementation of sound issues management processes backed by a robust and rapid response media management plan.  Most of all it requires the foresight to put such measures in place and the discipline to use them when the situation demands.

ICG has, for over three decades dealt with the media management of crises, from the most catastrophic natural and industrial events, to international product recalls and major operational incidents.

The consultancy has developed and implemented crisis management plans for Government agencies, major multinational corporations and significant national organisations in a range of industries.

Over that time we have observed the development of major issues and how  corporate response, or lack of,  can act to transform an issue into a full- blown crisis, with strong media involvement.

The result is the crisis escalation model below.

The difference between the dotted line, representing the impact profile of a well managed media issue, and the solid line leading to ‘Peak Outrage” is largely due to the processes and disciplines employed in engagement with stakeholders and media.

The price of poor preparedness and silence is obvious. 

John Kananghinis


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