I have been talking a lot about crisis communication and the key principles. For me it doesn’t matter whether it is an operational or reputational crisis the approach should be the same.
This week I was delighted to be part of the Corporate Communication conference in London this week and to be able to talk about things to remember when the worst happens. My final comment was if you remember nothing else remember that policies and procedures are worth nothing if you don’t remember people.
I have been watching the developing issues for Oxfam and it raises a number of questions. First how open is open? They believed they had provided the relevant information when the issue came to light but now realise they could have been more open. What did they do for the people who were affected at the time? This doesn’t seem to have been answered. What structure was in place to manage the issue from its emergence through to the conclusions the investigation?
Oxfam have outlined what they have done and changed since this incident and that is good. How much more could they do to increase confidence in the situation that exists today?
Finally what media training have key spokespeople had? I saw in one interview with Newsnight a representative appearing to smile when being asked challenging questions about the situation.
As professional communicators we have to be ready to meet a crisis no matter when, where or how it happens. We have to be able to advise the organisation about the appropriate response raising any concerns we have. We have to ensure key spokespeople are ready and trained to respond.
The important thing is never to focus only on reputation as that leads to poor decisions and potentially perverse behaviour. It is about doing what is right and having the right response out of that will come reputation management.
The past couple of days are a reminder for all of us about what we should do and the role we have to play when incidents arise.