The past 48 hours have been very telling for the Germanwings Flight 9525 crisis. While horrified by the tragedy, I would like to compliment the speed and transparency of which the information is being delivered to families and the public. With loss of life, especially of this magnitude, there is nothing more critical than to identify the facts and deliver what is appropriate in a timely and transparent fashion. At Seed Factory, we applaud Brice Robin, the Marseille Public Prosecutor for the delivery of the latest information—which is the co-pilots deliberate attempt to destroy aircraft—in a direct, honest and transparent approach out of respect for the families. He comes across as very sincere and credible about the latest findings. When you compare this to airplane tragedies in recent years—namely Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 —it is a stark contrast to what the public is accustomed to.
While we don’t believe Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is doing as good of a job, there are many learnings for corporations and executives on how to respond, when to respond and the information that should be shared. While no one wants to be in this particular situation and communicating this unfathomable level of detail, it’s imperative to be prepared. We take our lessons from leading Microsoft’s Y2K initiative and other crisis communications programs as we’ve prepared our clients and teams for a variety of unique scenarios. The following actions will help prepare a communications team and other key stakeholders if a crisis scenario hits.
- Define Your Crisis Team & Infrastructure: Along with the corporate communications team, identify the key leads from each of the business units and operations team to prepare for every possible crisis. Meet on a monthly or quarterly basis to review processes, protocols and actions.
- Build Your Crisis Plan and Be Prepared for a Variety of Scenarios: Don’t wait for a crisis to happen to begin thinking of a plan. You should have a variety of scenarios developed, based on the industry, and specifically the process of how to respond for each. Examples of scenarios, in order of importance, may include: loss of life, employee injury, manufacturer recall, corporate layoffs, quarterly losses or major corporate announcements. Develop a crisis plan and checklist, while aligning the actions to every particular scenario, role of each team member, messaging architecture and both internal and external responses.
- Identify & Prep Your Spokesperson: This is one of the most important steps any organization can take. Who will be the face and voice of the crisis communications that will be delivered? This spokesperson is ideally the most senior level executive at the organization that is authoritative, confident, articulate and accessible during the crisis. He or she will also take responsibility and accountability when needed. This needs to come across as sincere and not defensive.
- Prepare Your Content: Because possible scenarios have been identified, the company should be prepared from a messaging structure on how this critical information will be delivered. Questions and answers should have already been developed from the corporate and legal teams and reviewed by corporate executives. Only use confirmed facts and don’t speculate until you are 100% confident in the information that is being released. You don’t want to create a crisis around your corporate crisis.
- Be Accessible: This is critical and we’ve seen this part of the equation fall apart too many times. When a crisis happens, the spokesperson immediately needs to go to the location, share information as it’s uncovered, showcase transparency and be available to customers and media at any time they are needed. Set up a command center, have an 800-number established and staffed for the particular crisis, communicate these details through media alerts, host a press conference, respond to questions on social media, etc. It’s critical that the company has a presence at all times, is accessible and transparent.
At Seed Factory, we believe your company can be prepared and ready for any type of scenario, no matter how large or small it may be. Starting the discussions early leads to a prepared team that can confidently navigate a crisis and ensure the company’s reputation stays in tact. If you are interested in learning more about our crisis communications work and how we may help, please contact us at 404-996-4041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.