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.
Click image to enlarge