All companies face the potential for damage to occur to their reputation. However few plan effectively to ensure that issues don’t eventuate into crises.
The first step involves a comprehensive risk analysis which identifies the situations which could harm an organisation’s brand in the eyes of its customers, employees and other stakeholders. Potential risks include industrial accidents, product recalls, criminal activity by an employee, activists spreading misinformation and redundancies.
The risk analysis informs the development of a tailored issues management and crisis communications plan. This typically incorporates processes for recognising and reporting issues as they arise, establishing a Crisis Management Team and associated roles, determining media protocols, developing contact lists and draft media response materials, and clarifying post-crisis action steps for the main identified risks.
Convergence ensures its advice conforms to international best practice and has assisted numerous companies to manage issues. Much of what we do is happens behind the scenes, involving work of a confidential nature and frequently requires us to prepare company managers and other individuals for high pressure media interview situations. Some of the higher profile clients we have recently provided strategic media relations advisory are AMI Insurance, Pike River Coal (following the Pike River mine incident), Southern Storm Fishing (owners of the Oyang 70 fishing vessel which sank) and numerous media issues on behalf of the Canterbury and West Coast District Health Boards.
An historical project which involved non-confidential advice occurred when working with Lyttelton Port of Christchurch and we were asked to assist Holcim, an LPC client. Holcim needed to manage its reputation with media and the local community when clinker dust accidentally spread over the local township in moist conditions. The dust then hardened on everything from cars to houses to the local school. Convergence worked closely with Holcim’s crisis team to develop a community relations plan. Some of our work included organising an 0800 number so people could phone the company about their concerns and cleaning requirements. All calls were logged onto a database to ensure all information was captured, including action taken. We also sent several letters to residents on Holcim’s behalf and organised a public meeting to allow the community to ask the company questions directly, particularly around possible health effects. Communications were constantly reviewed and tactics adjusted throughout the clean up process. Former Christchurch City Mayor, Garry Moore, commented in The Press newspaper: “I would like to take the opportunity to publicly thank and congratulate Holcim… Their response to the situation has been an outstanding example of an issue being addressed head-on. They did not attempt to lay the blame elsewhere and worked with the port company, community leaders, and the people of Lyttelton to rectify the situation as fast as possible. They quickly organised public meetings and distributed leaflets to affected residents and commercial property owners to advise them of the clean-up programme. Holcim has done well – we can all learn from its example.”