Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Crisis Planning Can Make or Break Your Company

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Crisis Planning Can Make or Break Your Company

Article excerpt

The recent catastrophes that have befallen a number of America's leading-citizen companies, such as Firestone and Arthur Andersen, very clearly point to the need for crisis planning if a business wants to preserve its reputation and ensure its continued operation.

What constitutes a crisis?

There is a significant difference between a business crisis and a business emergency. A crisis is an emergency that gets carried to a wide audience with or without the media fanning the flames.

And, it should be treated with the same degree of care and trepidation as one would apply to an anthrax scare or a nuclear meltdown.

It's not a question of good or bad; it's the difference between bad and worse.

An acknowledged expert on the subject is Andrew Gilman, president of the New York-based CommCore Consulting Group, advisers on crisis management, message development and effective representation. Gilman, an ex-trade reporter and correspondent for National Public Radio, witnessed crisis management at its best when he coached Jim Burke, the then-CEO of Johnson & Johnson, who was the company helmsman during first Tylenol scare. Crisis management professionals still point to this case as the best practice in the field.

Crises can take a variety of forms. According to Gilman, the more common occurrences fall within clearly defined categories:

* Product: Bad press, recalls.

* Personnel: Labor conflict, racial/sexual suits.

* Financial: Sales failure, theft.

* Natural Disasters: Floods, earthquakes.

* Legal: Litigation, regulatory action.

* Violence: Terrorism, sabotage, kidnapping, workplace.

* Accidents: Employee, customer, executives.

It's a logical process

Gilman suggests that crisis management is a clearly defined process that serves the purpose of preparing the company for the unexpected and mitigating risks once the unexpected actually happens.

The implementation sequence looks like this:

* Gain buy-in from senior management on the need to complete the crisis plan.

* Undertake appropriate interviews and fact-finding for development of the plan.

* Gain agreement on additional inputs and key elements.

* Develop a crisis database of updated contacts (media, political, employees).

* Agree on appropriate reporting channels during the crisis.

* Compile a resource directory -- handbook or intranet delivery.

* Conduct drills/simulations.

* Appoint and equip a communications team for the crisis.

* Prepare the corporate Web site for crisis response.

Gilman notes that there are three stages to the management of a crisis.

The "Before" stage, which focuses on readiness, calls for the homework being done -- anticipation, diagnosis, development of the plan and training.

The "During" stage is consumed with getting back to normal as quickly as possible and calls for intensive coordination, communication, reaction and monitoring.

The "After" stage addresses damage assessment and future prevention, and involves anticipation, continued communication, analysis, learning from the mistakes and refocus.

Gilman emphasizes the utility and power of the corporate Web site to disseminate information very quickly. …

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