Posts Tagged ‘Crisis’

Reputation management doesn’t stop when the crisis is over

By Corneel Maes

Real time reputation management has substantially increased corporate risk awareness and crisis preparedness, however it can never be an insurance premium against Murphy’s Law. Accidents will happen, as they say. Unfortunately. A lot has been said and written about crisis communications, but there is an element to good crisis management that is often overlooked. And yet, it is as important as managing the crisis in the first place: what about post-crisis evaluation & learnings?

I’m a big fan of not immediately dropping the pen and sitting back as soon as the crisis situation is under control. Post-crisis evaluation is becoming even more important as we manage reputations on-line and in real time. Two intertwined aspects are important to assess, with the crisis management experience still fresh in the heads.

First of all internal processes: How did the crisis management team interact? Was initial fact finding effective and quick enough? Were initial data reliable? Did internal procedures work? Was the crisis room equipment fit for the job? What about stress resistance within the crisis team? Does the crisis communications plan need an overhaul? I could go on with more questions in the checklist.Learning from mistakes AND from things that went well will strengthen the team and the processes for a next (hopefully never occurring) event.

And then there is the outside world. How did the media do? Did our messages resonate with audiences on-line and off-line?? Did we come across valuable advocates on twitter and facebook? How can we do damage repair with influential bloggers who have been voicing criticism for the past 2 weeks or 2 months? Doing that exercise – combined with on-line measuring – enhances crisis preparedness yet another nudge.


High time BP reviews the basic rules of crisis communications

By Corneel Maes, Crisis Comms Specialist

BP keeps working its way through its worst nightmare, no doubt about that. I wonder whether they – or any of their competitors for all that matters – have ever been serious about preparing for the impossible, for the unconceivable. It may sound silly, but isn’t that what crisis preparedness is all about?  Never mess around with Murphy’s Law… And yet, it seems that the ultimate crisis scenario (a leaking well, completely out of control) was not in the crisis preparedness books at BP. Definitely not at the engineering level, let alone in the communications department.

What we’ve seen over the past 50 days is a crippled organization, as winged as the poor pelicans and seabirds they are accountable for. While struggling to close the leaking well in a tragic trial and error engineering process, properly communicating about it seems an even bigger challenge for BP.

The company’s inability to communicate transparently about the three key questions – What happened? What are you doing about it? How will you contain the impact? – has become the story in the digital media. Twitter took over and BP has completely lost grips on its reputation and credibility by starting crisis communications off the wrong foot. It will take their so carefully built market value and brand value to an unprecedented low for a long time.

The fake BP announcement in Dutch newspapers saying “SORRY” (with an asterisk referring to a footnote reading : “but you wanted to get cheaper oil”), shows that the brand has now been completely hacked.  The world is at war against BP – as a company, as a brand, as a member of the community.

To me, these are the top 3 management behaviors that should never be overruled in a crisis:

  1. Be reassuring but only promise what you are sure you can deliver
  2. Say what you do and do what you say
  3. Be perceived as  part of the solution, not the problem

To date, my score for BP on each of these behaviors is below average, to say the least. It’s high time BP reviews the basic rules of crisis communications and lives up to them.


The Clash of the Titans

By Corneel Maes

Carrefour is hitting the front page of all Belgian newspapers like mad today: local Management is set to announce quite a hefty restructuring to the works council, probably carving out some 20 supermarkets and causing job losses for up to 1 out of 3 people. The unions had already seen the dark cloud hanging over the company and pre-empted today’s announcement by … blocking one of Carrefour’s main distribution centers. They’re playing hard ball – following the example of AB InBev’s unions who succeeded in referring another major restructuring plan straight to the shredder machine only a couple of weeks ago. Carrefour unions must have thought: “What a great victory that was! We can do it too!” A very worrying evolution. Especially in a country that has historically been thriving on stable, constructive social relationships for building shareholder value, customer loyalty and employee engagement. In today’s economic reality, employer/union relationships have completely diluted from what they used to be, say just one decade ago. The “constructive collaboration” has been swapped for “angry confrontation”. How come? The economic crisis has increased and emphasized the pace of an evolution that was kicked off when the decision centers in most Belgian companies moved abroad. Belgo-Belgian works councils need to sit around the table now with senior managers that look at the business with a broader view, an open mind and an international background and experience. They talk a different kind of language. Unfortunately the Belgian unions have missed out on that evolution as they kept holding on to their arguments “for old times’ sake”. It’s worrying, as it pollutes the whole socio-economic climate in our country , and our chances to move out of the crisis by rebuilding a strong entrepreneurial environment. Constructive dialogue is turning into the clash of the titans. Belgian unions urgently need to rethink their license to operate. If not, more Opel Antwerp, AB InBev and Carrefour cases are bound to follow. And who will be the winners then, you think?