Supplement on Public Relations: Choosing & Using - Crisis management

It is wise to have crisis management processes in place. The best approach is to think the unthinkable, plan what to do if it happens, and periodically rehearse for it. Dealing with the media during a crisis is a necessary part of the plan.

It is wise to have crisis management processes in place. The best

approach is to think the unthinkable, plan what to do if it happens, and

periodically rehearse for it. Dealing with the media during a crisis is

a necessary part of the plan.



The biggest headlines result from situations where there is potential or

actual loss of life. Obviously, every priority must be given to succour,

treatment and comfort, but there needs to be consideration of how the

public is informed.



All mainstream transport operators have crisis procedures and these were

implemented by Stena Line when its ferry, Challenger, was grounded last

year. Happily, its passengers were inconvenienced rather than endangered

but, because of recent ferry catastrophes, there was intense media

attention.



As safety operations went into gear, a well-rehearsed PR plan was

implemented.



An important aspect of this was to ensure the media was kept informed,

while enabling the ship management and technical teams to get on with

their work.



The switchboard was bombarded and the media was on the scene at

Calais.



Through a 24-hour on-call system, press office staff were quickly

assembled.



Some manned phones at head office, supported by extra staff, and others

accompanied managing director Gareth Cooper to Calais. A flow of

information was established from the ferry and a press room was set up

at the port.



News conferences were held every two hours and Cooper gave additional

live interviews.



After the initial drama, there was positive coverage about how

passengers were cared for. Director of communications Chris Laming says:

’You have to be honest and admit it was damaging. But I think we came

out of it proving we are a caring company.’ k



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS



Thanks to these course operators: Chris Loosemore, director, Ariel

Communications (01734 543 694); Tim Arnold, partner, Arnold Harris

Associates (01582 478 151); Lucy Tilbury, client services director,

Bulletin International (0171 278 6070); Sarah Dickinson, managing

director, Electric Airwaves (0171 323 2770); John Clare, managing

director, Lion’s Den Communications Management (0181 742 0392). Thanks

also to these PR consultants: Sally Costerton, managing director, Abacus

(0171 580 8852); Ken Clayton, managing director, Michael Rines

Communications (01327 810 900); Venessa Holtham, head of public affairs

division, Text 100 (0171 808 7071).



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