Many thanks to our great friends in the Business Post for including this great piece on the basics of Crisis Management in yesterday’s paper.
When a crisis strikes, you must always tell a client what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. That’s according to Paul Allen, founder and managing director of Paul Allen & Associates, a Dublin- based public affairs and communications firm.
Allen’s company has been dealing with crises for over 28 years, and is long established as one of the country’s leading firms in crisis management and securing results.
“The types of issues and crises we see daily are endless. We have dealt with all kinds of product recalls, accidents, litigation support and even a shipwreck and navy rescue in the Indian Ocean. Preventing issues from becoming crises is what we do daily,” said Allen.
“We have a wide range of clients including aviation companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, retailers, professional services firms and trade associations, so you need to be prepared for anything.”
Utilising almost three decades of frontline experience, Allen has key advice to help in crisis management. The first is to be prepared and always have a plan.
“A key phrase used often by the team of professionals at Paul Allen & Associates is: ‘You need a plan by your side, not at your wake’,” said Allen. “Having a plan in place before the crisis is absolutely crucial. The majority of what we do as crisis management professionals is assessing risk and developing issue and crisis management plans for our clients. This needs to be done long before the dreaded phone call in the middle of the night or the call from the journalist asking if you have a comment on a story being published the following day.
“Having a plan and revising it regularly that you can turn to when these things happen will be of immense comfort and saves an extraordinary amount of time wasted wondering what to do and who is in charge.”
Allen is steadfast on the issue of acting quickly to address any issue that arises. A crisis moves fast, he explained, and every second counts.
“You must act fast, get a grasp of the facts and activate the response plan immediately. Doing nothing and hoping the bad news will go away never really works,” he said.
“Our job is to try and make sense of chaos. Years of experience allow us to develop a sixth sense about things that don’t seem right. We may need to have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment with the client and make it very clear we need the truth to deal with the situation. It is always essential to get to the true facts of the situation. In the land of truth, the man with one fact is king.”
Another reason for acting quickly is that a quick, proactive response can make your company or organisation look efficient, transparent, and responsive in times of trouble. Allen said this is why it is essential to keep a clear head.
“Another well-worn phrase at Paul Allen & Associates is ‘T-CUP’: think clearly under pressure,” he said. “If you breathe slowly, you can think slowly.
“You make bad decisions if you panic. This is where the well-rehearsed crisis plan comes to your aid and will help you focus on what needs to be done.
‘’In times of crisis, there is often a lot of background noise, competing voices, and media commentary which can be very confusing. Therefore, keep your head clear, take leadership and focus on your strategy.”
A critical step is to be mindful of opportunities to improve your situation.
“Sometimes, crises can be turned into opportunities and they have a habit of showing new ways of doing things,” added Allen. “You have to use your instincts, and you never know when you might see an opportunity to turn matters on their head.
‘’We have been very busy reminding clients that for as long as the printers keep churning out newspapers, there are still opportunities to get your message across in the national media.”
Allen’s final piece of advice is to have a rebound plan. He explained how a crisis always passes eventually, so you need to be prepared for how to get back on track and resume business as usual.
‘’Having a roadmap to normality helps you get through the crisis quickly and can also help you get away from the feeling of being in perpetual crisis mode,” he said.
‘’Right now, we are working with businesses to develop critical solutions to obstacles they will face when getting back to business. Having a professional, steady hand on the wheel with the experience of managing crisis is invaluable.”