Crisis Management – Malcolm Brown Responds
Malcolm Brown, Managing Director, Atlantic PRThe first question I would be asking the MD is: “Do you have a crisis plan?”, which, if they did, should have kicked in immediately. If they do not then this would have to be addressed as soon as this crisis was over.
Secondly, I would tell the MD that he or she, along with the sales director and production director, should return to the office immediately. They should bring their crisis team together (if this exists) or, at the very least, every senior level of management who could have an input into the situation. The company’s lawyers should also be brought in. What is the legal position? I would also recommend meeting with the former employee to verify that a memo was sent. At this stage we would not recommend contact with the consumer organisation. This is a deep-rooted problem and will have to be addressed with them in the future.
A full up-to-the-minute report on the situation plus a day-to-day history of events. Media coverage to date: is any of it inaccurate? MD to take total control of situation. He will be the main face and focus of the company. Organise emergency media training if required. Brief receptionists/telephonists – all media enquiries to be filtered through PR officer. No-one other than MD to comment on situation.
Check with hospital and health authorities. As a priority the company has to find out why the children of the other members of staff are ill. At this stage no-one has actually said that the company is to blame. Is it a bug – perhaps contracted by one of the staff on holiday?
Prepare holding statement for the media. For instance, full investigation launched. At this stage hospital can’t confirm why people are ill, etc.
Full staff briefing should be held. Hold nothing back from them. Tell the truth. A private meeting should be held with the parents of the two children in intensive care. Offer the parents any assistance you are able to give without admitting liability.
A decision has to be taken on whether to stop production of the chocolate bar and remove the bar from supermarket shelves. Our recommendation would be: yes, stop production and remove. You would be perceived as a responsible company: For instance, “We have done this purely as a precautionary measure as we are a responsible company.”
Once all the facts are known the media are going to have to be confronted with the results of the investigation to date. Even though all details are not known you could hold a full media briefing and bring them totally up to date with your full investigations. The MD should lead this and should be the one responsible for ALL interviews.
He should be open, honest and totally frank about the situation.
What the MD should not do
He should not admit that the company is responsible for this. No hard evidence has as yet been produced that the company is at fault. However, a full investigation has been mounted. Production must be stopped and the product removed from shelves because this is a responsible company. The MD must be totally honest, not over confident, as eventually the company could be to blame. However, he still has to get over the total professionalism and high-quality standards of the company.