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Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Global Corporate Governance Forum Crisis Management: Communicating with the Media Amanda Vermeulen.

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Presentation on theme: "Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Global Corporate Governance Forum Crisis Management: Communicating with the Media Amanda Vermeulen."— Presentation transcript:

1 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Global Corporate Governance Forum Crisis Management: Communicating with the Media Amanda Vermeulen

2 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 What is a crisis? Crisis: an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs whose outcome will make a decisive difference for better or worse (Webster's New Collegiate). Crisis management: a systematic response to unexpected events that threaten the people, property and operating continuity of the organisation. The role of the media: (should be) to provide a balanced view to allow the public to shape informed opinions and make informed decisions.

3 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Stages of a Crisis 1. Crisis build-up – hints or cracks appear 2. Break-out – triggering event causes the crisis to erupt 3. Abatement, which can linger for years 4. Termination, when the crisis is no longer a threat or has caused the demise of the entity involved Strategic media communications are essential at every stage.

4 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Planning for a crisis Prepare contingency plans in advance The only people who should speak to the media are the crisis management team members  Move quickly because the media often builds a view in the first few hours – “the Golden Hour” Give accurate and correct information. Manipulating information can backfire When deciding on a plan of action think about both the short term and long term

5 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 What not to do Four examples of poor media management in a crisis: Three Mile Island The sinking of the Kursk TWA 800 crash South Africa’s crime problem

6 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 "I think the best way to put it is that there were very poor communications at the time. We weren't able to get clear, accurate information out to the media and the public.... And at that point the media went to other sources for their information." Tom Kauffman Three Mile Island, 28 March 1979

7 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 A relatively minor malfunction in the secondary cooling circuit caused the temperature in the primary coolant to rise The reactor shut down automatically A relief valve failed to close, but instrumentation didn’t reveal it So much of the primary coolant drained away that the reactor core overheated The core suffered severe damage BUT only a small amount of radioactive material was released Three Mile Island

8 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Three Mile Island The communication mistakes: Operator Metropolitan Edison (MetEd) released little information in the first hours and days First news conference was only 12 hours after the accident but news had already leaked MetEd official admitted they knew radioactive particles were entering the atmosphere as even as they held the press conference. But a decision was taken NOT to inform media and public. A company official later admitted he did not mention any releases into the environment "because he had not been asked directly.”

9 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Three Mile Island The communication mistakes: MetEd chose to withhold information that was perceived as being in the “vital interests” of the general public once it finally became available What appeared in the media was "informed speculation," often from sources in the antinuclear movement and often of an alarmist character the public was unable to determine its accuracy the media had not reported on nuclear accidents before so had little experience in verifying the accuracy this led to widespread confusion and long-term distrust of the nuclear energy industry

10 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Russian submarine Kursk sinks, all souls are lost. President Vladimir Putin is slow to react, remaining at his holiday home in Sochi for six days. The Kursk

11 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 While on a naval exercise, the Kursk sinks in the Barents Sea on 12 August 2000, trapping the crew The navy only makes an announcement the following day A rescue is only mounted on 14 August Russia asks for international help on 16 August Putin returns from vacation on 18 August, six days after the sinking Putin meets the families of the Kursk’s crew on 22 August, admitting to a “feeling of guilt and responsibility”, but attacks the media for making political capital out of the disaster on TV. The Kursk

12 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 The communication mistakes: All information was released at navy base so media were effectively locked out Navy withheld much information, forcing media to ‘bribe’ officials for crew list Sensational footage of mother of one of the crew being ‘sedated’ against her will by officials Government press officials reacted extremely slowly Shooting the messenger The Kursk

13 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 TWA Flight 800 explodes off the coast of Long Island on July 1996, killing all 230 passengers. Witnesses claim the Boeing 747 was downed by a missile. The official explanation was a fuel tank explosion. The controversy remains unresolved to this day. Simulated photograph TWA Flight 800

14 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 TWA Flight 800 TWA Flight 800 explodes and crashes into the sea on July Eyewitnesses report seeing what looked like a missile hit the plane NTSB blamed faulty wiring Families and some media claim a cover-up and conspiracy TWA goes bankrupt in 2001, aggravated by the crash

15 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 TWA Flight 800 The communication mistakes: TWA was not the primary source of information on the first night The CEO did not go to the crash site quickly enough Failure by authorities to deal with circulating conspiracy theories fuelled suspicions Final report took four years to complete

16 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 WRONG! Three recent suicides at Guantanamo Bay were described by Colleen Graffy, deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy (sic) as ”a good PR move to draw attention.” Camp commander, Rear Admiral Harry B Harris Jr said “this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

17 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Charles Nqakula says those who complain about crime are unpatriotic moaners. “They can continue to whinge until they're blue in the face, be as negative as they want to, or they can simply leave.” A United Nations survey suggested South Africa has the third highest murder rate, after Colombia and Swaziland. SA ’ s crime problem

18 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Crime in SA In 2004/5 carjackings came to compared to in 2002/3 Murders totalled in 2004/05, down from in 2002/2003 Interpol says South Africa’s overall crime rate is comparable to other developed countries. But what makes SA unique is the incredibly high level of violent crime. 50 murders a day, 1 rape every minute (Unilever Institute, 2004) Almost 2000 farm murders 50 – 59 murders per population (Interpol)

19 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Crime in SA The communication mistakes: The authorities attack the media and the victims They obfuscate the facts They deny the problem (diplomats) Communication is reactive and defensive No crisis management plan No trust in the authorities to handle the problem The CEO (President) is silent on the subject

20 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Frightened people absorb negative information (TMI, TWA, SA) more than positive information. In a crisis it takes three pieces of good news to balance one piece of bad news. Vincent Covello, Director of the Centre for Risk Communication in New York. Over-reassuring content is alarming.* (TMI, SA) Audiences are less tolerant of complexity when they’re upset.* (TMI) Peter M. Sandman Get the word out. (TWA)  Deductions

21 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006Guidelines Keep your friends close but your enemies closer Chart the waters List all the risks and threats in your industry Prepare different crisis scenarios Ask yourself tough questions and have answers ready Be on message all the time Nominate a crisis management team

22 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006Guidelines Make sure your frontline people are well-trained! The buck stops with the board (Exxon, TWA, SA) Media training is essential - comfort in front of the press does not come naturally Be honest and prompt with information In a crisis it’s okay to admit what you don’t know (Tylenol versus TWA) Communication advisors must be trusted by the board Be sensitive – all crises have a human element

23 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 The Wall Street Journal: "Experts Praise How Merck Broke the News" saying Merck's withdrawal of Vioxx - along with extensive media appearances by CEO Raymond V. Gilmartin and key members of the board - "exceeded the norm.“ Gilmartin turned up twice on CNBC within an hour and Merck's media team had director Lawrence Bossidy, appear soon after University of Michigan professor, Gerald Meyers, says "they're being very open, bringing in top people to lend veracity." RIGHT!

24 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 The end game A crisis is an opportunity for change Rally corporate culture around a transparent message of integrity Communication can be an effective strategy to improve/instil values Make the media your friend, not your enemy BUT… how you start is how you’ll end

25 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 The objective of crisis management is to influence public opinion to the point that positive opinions held in the post-crisis period are at the same level or greater and negative opinions are at the same level or less among any stakeholders. Tylenol

26 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 “A good reputation is more valuable than money.” Publilius Syrus, Roman author 1 st century BC

27 Amanda Vermeulen July 2006 Questions?


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