Over the last several weeks and months the world has witnessed several countries going through crisis situations, and we have witnessed these crisis being handled with varying degrees of efficiency. From the Malaysian government and their handling of the still missing flight M370 to the Nigerian government and their handling of the kidnapped schoolgirls.
These high profile tragic events have made world headlines and permanent placement in the global 24hour news cycles.
Global Brands and corporations have also had their fair share of crisis situations to deal with in the last few weeks and months. From US airways and their twitter fiasco with an employee uploading a lewd and sexually graphic image to the US airways corporate twitter feed to now ex-PR manager Justine Sacco being fired from IAC for the offensive tweet she wrote regarding Africa and AIDS.
The above examples show that a crisis comes in many forms, and can cause deep irreversible reputational damage for countries, governments, corporate as well as individuals. This reputation can take years and in some cases decades to repair.
As the famous Benjamin Franklin quote states ‘It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it’.
The media is the vehicle that fans the flames of a crisis, and there are very distinct phases in how the media reacts. This week’s column will outline these phases and in the coming weeks we will show you how to effectively handle each phase.
Phase I The news ‘breaks’
The news ‘breaks and the incident or situation is made public by the media. This is the “breaking news” stage. The initial reaction from the media, readers and viewers is gathering basic facts and finding out “What happened?”.
In today’s information age…news travels fast and moving from Phase I to Phase II now happens in a matter of hours but in many case minutes.
Phase II The victims, the perpetrators, the response
This phase focuses squarely on the “victims” the “perpetrators” and the response. The focus shifts from ‘what happened’ to ‘how did this happen’ who are affected and what is the response. The media will quickly seek to find out more about the perceived perpetrators, who they are and how they are reacting to the situation.
This is the most crucial stage of a crisis from a reputational perspective. This is when favorable or negative perceptions will be formed depending on the reputation of the perpetrator to date combined with their response to the current situation.
This Phase is where the positive and negative chatter across all social media plat forms and blogs becomes the central and most acute focus.
The focus on the organization, government or person will grow with intense scrutiny and individual ‘faces’ to the organization or government will be sought. The media will begin to search for sources and ‘experts’ and commentators begin to appear adding their thoughts and opinions on the current situation. This phase can last for several weeks and in some cases months depending on the severity of the situation, response and resolution.
Phase III The blame game
This phase is another crucial point as media and audiences demand to know who should be blamed for the current incident or situation. During this phase, opinions will be formed and vocalized about your company, you as an individual, your country or organization depending on the type of crisis that is involved.
Phase III is all about ‘blame’, the crisis is reported vastly and the opinions and social media conversations will continue to grow.
Phase IV The ending or another beginning
Depending on the crisis this phase can be the resolution or fallout phase. It is the resolution phase if the crisis is resolved with no further incidents.
It is the beginning of another or can be the fallout phase if the situation continues unresolved or is marred by incompetence handling or other events that add to the crisis. Fallout can result in a number of business and reputational damaging scenarios ranging from drop in tourism, legal actions, demonstrations, loss of sales, falling shares, loss of advertisers etc depending on the situation.
It is important to be fully aware of and prepared for Phase’s I – IV as a crisis can occur at any time and the phases can and will happen in a matter of days if not hours. African governments, brands and organizations have to have a strategic crisis communications plan in place to deal with a crisis at every stage.
In the next few weeks we will take each phase and provide tips and insights into how to strategically plan your communications strategy to effectively handle and prepare for each phase of a crisis…your reputation depends on it.
Curated by Claudine Moore, ‘AFKI Corporate’ column brings readers a range of business insights, trends, news and tips exclusively for corporations and people conducting business in the African Market. Each week this column will provide readers with international business strategies, tips, tools and insights customized for the continent.
It will also feature exclusive Q&A’s with influencers, business leaders and entrepreneurs from across Africa, and the African diaspora sharing their business tips, vision and ideas for continued accelerated growth on the continent.
Claudine Moore (@ClaudineMoore) is the founder of C Moore Media (@CMooreMedia) headquartered in New York City with a robust African division. Claudine is also a columnist with top media outlets including CNN and specializes in African topics and news. Claudine spends a significant amount of her time traveling across Africa for both business and pleasure.