As the case of Tony Danker and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) shows, every organisation needs an effective crisis communication strategy that is fit for purpose and ready to put into practice. We provide crisis communications for a number of organisations, and we’re increasingly looking at crisis scenarios that focus on allegations of bullying and sexual harassment.
Needless to say, these days, most organisations are much more aware of these issues and have processes and procedures in place to ensure that, wherever possible, their staff aren’t at risk. However, despite these initiatives, more and more organisations risk these allegations hitting conventional and social media outlets. That’s why it’s more important than ever that PR companies and in-house communications teams are ready to handle these situations when they occur.
CBI Crisis Communications
The CBI was bound to be the focus of considerable media attention, given that it’s such a unique and prominent organisation. During our crisis communications courses, we look at how well – and how badly – various organisations have handled a crisis. In this situation, the CBI has done a reasonably good job of controlling the flow of information and maintaining a consistent line. It was unfortunate for them that Tony Danker decided to express his thoughts so freely on Twitter. As well as demonstrating how social media has changed crisis communications and made it more difficult for Communications professionals to manage these situations, Danker’s tweets are a reminder of how important it is to ensure that everyone within the organisation maintains a consistent line and only communicates through official channels.
In cases of bullying and sexual harassment, it’s imperative in your crisis communications strategy and messaging to express sympathy and concern. In our crisis communications training, we look at the difference between sympathising on the one hand and apologising on the other. Whatever the truth of the allegations and whatever an official inquiry reveals, sounding human and sympathetic is always important.
What to do in a Crisis
Taking action quickly, confidently and transparently is another essential factor in crisis communications. The CBI appears to have done this by appointing a new director-general, Rain Newton-Smith, a woman with a good reputation. Taking action this way is sensible, as is pointing an outside investigator as the CBI has done.
In our crisis PR courses, we help our clients communicate to the media and all relevant audiences the actions they are taking to support those affected by the crisis and to do everything they can to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
The aim of any organisation caught up in a crisis should be for the audience to take the view that sometimes bad things happen to good people. As we explain in our crisis communications training courses, you need to act in a way that will leave your relevant audiences thinking that, unfortunately, these things do happen from time to time, but that you acted quickly with care and competence to rectify the situation. We’ll see over the coming weeks in months if that is the view people take of the CBI.