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The Morning Risk Report: A Crisis Plan Only Takes You So Far

Tuesday, May 17, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Leslie Dube

 

The Morning Risk Report: A Crisis Plan Only Takes You So Far

 

By 

BEN DIPIETRO

May 10, 2016 6:56 am ET

 

Every organization needs a crisis-response plan, but those plans won’t address every situation, while the time to put out a proper response continues to shrink given the growing role social play plays in disseminating news. So, Johnson & Johnson Corp. is still held up as gold standard for crisis response for the way it handled a nationwide Tylenol recall in 1982, but if the company took three days to respond today it would be roundly criticized, said Davia Temin, chief executive of crisis management firm Temin and Co. “Now, they would be lucky to have five minutes,” she said last week at the Women Corporate Directors conference. “You need a crisis plan, but it would be a huge mistake to think you will follow it.”

That proved to be the case at Strathmore Business School in Kenya, which learned the hard way that being transparent and offering messaging that takes the proper tone are vital parts of a crisis response. The university staged a simulated terrorist attack as part of its awareness training but failed to adequately inform students, faculty and the community. One person died and several dozen were injured when police stormed the campus and shot fake bullets that caused panicked people to rush to escape. Once it realized what happened, the university’s crisis management team had to overcome resistance to issue a public apology, said Patricia Murugami, advisor to the dean for the school’s Women in Leadership Program. “The legal team said don’t accept liability…but that just put another flame into the fire and made people even more upset,” said Ms. Murugami. “When you lie…it always backfires.”

Organizations don’t get to determine what is reported, but they can make sure all stakeholders have the latest information and can work swiftly to correct any erroneous reporting during an unfolding crisis, said Cathy Allen, CEO of security firm Santa Fe Group and a co-chair of the University of Missouri Capital Campaign. By separating facts from what was being reported during several days of campus protests and a hunger strike that led to the resignations of the university’s chancellor and president, the university was able to admit it had made some mistakes in handling the situation. “You don’t get to control what gets reported,” said Ms. Allen. “But you can try to manage that with as much communication as you can get out…be as transparent as quickly as you can be.”

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