We don't want to keep you up at night, but the likelihood your
But when disaster's at your doorstep, what can you do to avoid ruin?
On the one hand, crises can be disastrous, leading to tumbling stock prices, resignations, and immeasurable reputational damage. On the other, they can be an opportunity to demonstrate your
Put Your Best Face Forward
In 2010, tragedy struck the Gulf Coast. A BP-owned oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded, leading to the deaths of 11 workers and the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. A monumental crisis by anyone’s measurement.
Still, somehow, BP managed to make things worse. Tony Hayward, the former CEO of the oil giant, made mistake after mistake. Firstly, he tried to shift blame for the incident during an interview with the BBC. "This was not our accident … This was not our drilling rig ... This was Transocean's rig. Their systems. Their people. Their equipment," he said.
He then appeared to be unconcerned about the environmental impact of the incident during an interview with the Guardian, where he stated that “the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean.”
But by far his greatest blunder, and the one that ultimately led to his
There are many crisis management lessons to be learned from the BP oil spill, but Tony Hayward’s awful handling of the media is perhaps the most significant. The entire situation is a playbook on how not to deal with journalists during an incident.
As part of your contingency planning process, consider providing your executives with media training. This will help them communicate more effectively, tackle tough questions head-on, and appear more genuine and sympathetic – unlike Tony, in his apology video below.
In this age of 24/7 news, where stories and videos can be shared across the world in an instant, being well-prepared to communicate effectively with the media is essential for any company looking to avoid making their situation any worse during the handling of a crisis.
Avoid Social Media Meltdowns
The slower you react to an incident, the less control you have over the narrative. United Airlines learned this the hard way in 2017 when, infamously, a passenger was dragged against his will off one of their planes. It took just minutes for footage of this awful
It took United Airlines until the next day to issue an apology. An apology which didn’t even say sorry for treating the passenger badly.
United CEO response to United Express Flight 3411. pic.twitter.com/rF5gNIvVd0— United Airlines (@united) April 10, 2017
One single day might not seem like too long to issue a response, but it was already too little too late. People were already sharing tweets and Facebook posts making fun of the airline's reaction to the situation.
United Airlines’s slow reaction and inability to direct the story led to $1 billion being wiped off its market value and immeasurable damage being done to its reputation. This could have all been avoided if they had gotten ahead of the story, immediately taken responsibility, apologised, and explained how they were working to fix the situation.
Social media may increase the chances of a crisis being exacerbated, but it's also a powerful tool for taking control of the narrative. Again, it’s all about crisis preparation.
Defend Against Hackers
Cyber-crime is on the rise. In fact, 41% of
Imagine, then, how it must feel to fall victim to the biggest data breach in history? That's what happened to Yahoo in
One of the most embarrassing aspects of this debacle is that Yahoo took two years to spot that a cyber-attack had even taken place. That's four times the average. It's clear that Yahoo, despite the many breaches it's dealt with in the past, was ill-prepared to handle cyber-attacks.
To avoid a similar fate, companies should ensure their incident management plan accounts for cyber-threats of all types. You need to know who needs to be alerted, how you will inform customers who have been affected, and how you will ring-fence the breach before more damage is done.
No matter how much money is spent on cyber-security, it's likely that if hackers want access to your data, they will find a way of getting it. We're not saying you shouldn't invest in the latest security technologies, but you must also prepare for the steps you'll take if you ever are on the receiving end of a cyber-attack.
We hope these three horrific crisis management nightmares have made you
Have you already written a solid contingency plan for your company? If not, our free, practical guide on how to write one is essential reading.