In the past I have commented on crisis management and the tools needed to handle crisis in today’s business environment. It is clear however, that an international crisis, such as the COVID 19 virus or even a geo-political crisis is harder to deal with than a domestic crisis. Because of international considerations, an international crisis is normally harder to manage than a domestic crisis. As it is more complex, companies caught up in an international crisis have to pay more attention to international, cultural, and communication issues than they would in a purely domestic scenario.
Crisis communications has become very important. Therefore, an international crisis requires a number of steps, including:
• Planning for an international crisis
• Appointing a crisis manager
• Establishment of a Crisis Management Team
• Establishment of a Media Crisis Team to handle international communications
The principle focus of any crisis management strategy, especially in an international contest, is communications. All crisis management plans call for effective crisis communications, which many times are not always executed. Inadequate or failed communications lead to bad publicity, unhappy stakeholders, and potential disaster. An effective crisis communication strategy is necessary for any international crisis. A number of companies and even governments have failed to defuse international crisis because of poor communications.
An effective crisis communication strategy is necessary when dealing with an international crisis. It also requires the establishment of an effective Media Crisis Team that can respond to potential media issues. Who should be on the team? At least 6 people from the following areas or departments:
1. Legal- someone from the GC’s or CLO’s Office
2. HR- HR should designate a staff member capable of handling crisis related issues
3. Outside legal- in the case of most companies, the primary outside law firm should also be on the team
4. PR- if the company has a PR department, someone from PR should be on the team
5. Outside PR- it is a good idea for most companies to retain an outside PR firm if possible
6. QA or Service, etc.- depending on the product or services the company provides, perhaps someone from the Service Department of Quality Control Department should also be on the media crisis team.
A number of processes need to implemented and issues addresses to create an effective Media Crisis Team. Such processes and issues include the following:
• Creation of the Media Crisis Team.
• Identify a key spokesperson or spokespersons on the Media Crisis Team who will speak for the organization. Who are they? What are their roles?
• Training on cultural issues, if the crisis involves other cultures.
• Establishment of communication procedures and protocols for the Media Crisis Team. Who communicates to whom and why? Can the Media Crisis Team members communicate to each other directly?
• The main messages that should be communicated to key stakeholders should be thought through.
• A budget for the Media Crisis Team, should be approved and set up.
• The facts surrounding the crisis should be established as well as the major talking points.
• How will the Media Crisis Team handle the Press? Processes?
• Has a communications war room been set up for the Media Crisis Team in order to meet and handle communications?
• Has a hotline been set up?
Though companies try and resolve the crisis at hand and spend significant sums of money to do so, if they fail to properly communicate to the media and the public, they in effect have lost and can expect outrage and consumer dissatisfaction to such an extent that the very existence of the company can be threatened. So remember, a company doing business internationally has to plan for eventual crisis. If it fails to handle communications properly during a crisis, it faces not only a potential loss of business but a negative impact on its brand. Therefore, I recommend to all companies that now is the best time to create a Media Crisis Team.