Effective Issues and Crisis Management

Claire Mason, managing director and founder of B2B PR and marketing consultancy Man Bites Dog, was recently featured in Private Equity International’s ‘Private Fund and Dispute Resolution’ guide, discussing her ten top tips for handling a crisis and the media:

  1. Culture: Great crisis management starts with great leadership and, in the case of private equity houses, great partnership. Foster a culture of transparency and trust so that issues can be pre-empted and crises can be identified early and escalated to relevant parties.
  2. Preparation: The key to effective crisis management is all in the planning and preparation. Develop a clear issues management plan, including identifying key risks, scenario-planning and action instructions. Prepare basic information documents and train a team of spokespeople so they are ready to be mobilised at a moment’s notice.
  3. Balance: Ensure your leadership, communications and legal teams work together to manage reputational, financial and legal risk as a team. Sometimes you will be forced to choose between short-term financial and long-term reputational consequences — your approach should be made clear in your crisis management strategy and values.
  4. Clarity and control: Ensure all parties are absolutely clear who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed — and who has ultimate control — in the event of a crisis. Democracy is not an option.
  5. Practicalities: Crises are not a 9–5 business. Consider the practicalities of how you will handle that 3am call. Who is the crisis management team, where will they assemble, how will they monitor the issue, how will inbound calls be han- dled, how will spokespeople be made available? Practicing this is as important as your fire drill.
  6. Security: Implement a clear protocol to ensure no information is leaked, inten- tionally or otherwise. This should include employment and supplier contracts and employee training, from receptionists to leaders.
  7. Communication: It’s better to over-communicate in a crisis. Ensure your crisis lead is always available and always take the call. If you can’t convey any informa- tion now, tell media and those affected when they can expect to hear from you.
  8. Speed: You have a maximum of one hour to compose and issue an initial response — use it wisely. Stick to the facts, don’t speculate and never blame or criticise a third party. Even when you can say very little, covering the basics in a balanced, human tone will go a long way. Acknowledge the fact that something has happened, express regret and concern for those affected, and state firmly how you will respond.
  9. Supporters: Make sure you can call on your friends in a time of need. Consider whether you can mobilise any third-party stakeholders to support you, for exam- ple, the parties directly affected, a trade body or a neutral expert. Your crisis plan should contain ideas and emergency contact details.
  10. Silver lining: It’s rarely a crisis that damages reputation — it’s how you handle it. Remember, a crisis is a positive opportunity to reinforce your leadership, ethics and public profile. It’s up to you to rise to the occasion.

As published in ‘Private Fund Dispute Resolution’, Private Equity International, Edited by Hilton Mervis, (2014), p.310. For your copy, please visit:https://www.privateequityinternational.com/fund-dispute/

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