Every industry has its own uniqueness which can trigger a crisis at any time. For example, in the aviation business there is a specific risk, namely the plane crash. In contrast to risks, issues are usually related to public policy or company operations. For example, sugar content in the food industry. With increasing public awareness of the dangers of diabetes, related industries need to continue to monitor the attitudes of the public and regulators. This is so that there is no rejection of the product.
Development of issues can be monitored through the media before a crisis occurs. While the risk can occur suddenly. On a larger scale are natural disasters. Handling must be carried out in a cross-sectoral manner and the main task of handling this is on the shoulders of the government. The business world also needs to be alert with mitigation measures. The unpreparedness of corporations for natural disasters will exacerbate the impact of the crisis.
Both issues, risks and disasters are factors that the company must take into account. Companies need to design mitigation measures and communication with stakeholders. The mitigation steps are outlined in Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
SOP in the field of communication includes communication in crisis situations (crisis communications) and who is authorized to become the spokesperson of the company. The appointment of a spokesperson must be clearly spelled out and cannot be misinterpreted. The following is an example of an excerpt from the SOP of a mining company that I have led:
- Only the president director and general manager of external affairs are authorized to submit comments, statements or information to the public or the media on behalf of the company, and in the event that both are unable to do so, the authority rests with the general manager of HR affairs.
- Employees who are asked by the media to provide comments or discuss policies, procedures, company operations or other issues related to employment must invite the questioner to meet with the general manager who will bring them together with the authorized official according to provisions (1).
- Employees who are not authorized to provide information to the media must notify the media to meet with their superiors who will arrange a meeting with the authorized spokesperson to provide information to the media. Complete information about the journalist concerned, the media represented, telephone number and deadline must be obtained from the journalist in advance.
From the SOP example above, it is clear that all employees must have the same understanding. Understanding formed through internal communication activities. All general managers, including those who do not have the authority to act as spokespersons, must undergo media handling training.
In the era of social media there are additional skills that every PR practitioner should have. In Timothy Coombs’ book entitled Ongoing Crisis Communication – Planning, Managing and Responding, it is stated that currently many companies in the United States have created social media manager positions. They are in charge of organizing and overseeing the company’s social media strategy, including identifying threats and opportunities that arise on social media. The requirements of a social media manager are not only technical, but also an understanding of communication and marketing activities.
Talking about crises, it is incomplete without reviewing business continuity. In this case I quote Timothy Coombs’ book, The Handbook of Crisis Communication. He said that business continuity keeps operations running, wholly or partly, in the event of a disaster or crisis. Business continuity is closely related to crisis management. Every company needs to have a Business Continuity Plan and a team that coordinates with the Crisis Management Team. When a disaster or crisis occurs, the management of the company is guilty of not preparing himself and his entire staff for all the possibilities that could occur.
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 49th Edition, issued on April 2019, page 54.
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