Be prepared for when the crisis comes. Make sure to have a strong reputation. Make sure to tell the right and honest stories during normal times, so that during a crisis you can be consistent.
That was the key messages Anthony Thompson presented to his audience during a webinar on crisis management for employers’ organisations from South and South-East Asia. The webinar was part of the online course Taking A Lead On Reputation And Crisis Management For EBMOs, organised by the International Training Centre of the ILO and DECP.
Mr Thompson, who is a British expert on crisis communication, illustrated his statement by the example of two British companies: Virgin and BP. Virgin was struck by crisis when an experimental plane crashed, killing its pilot. Virgin founder and CEO Branson took the lead, took responsibility, was visible and was completely open about the facts. Branson managed to keep the strong reputation of his firm intact.
The opposite is true of BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill when vast quantities of crude oil polluted the Gulf of Mexico. BP tried to deny the facts, then tried to blame others, was not transparent about the facts and thus suffered from serious reputational damage.
Thompson stressed the importance of the chances that media have undergone and are still undergoing. ‘News spreads worldwide 24/7. Every news consumer has an opinion. There is no way to cover up.’ But what organisations can do, according to Thompson, is to take the lead through day to day communication. ‘Everybody is a publisher nowadays. So tell your stories.’ Thus strong reputations can be build which will help during a crisis.
The webinar on crisis management was the final activity of the 3rd module of the course, which runs from October 2020 until March 2021. Representatives from 12 countries take part.