The 6 “C’s” of Crisis Management & Communications

While in China I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman from China (he spoke English).  Our main topic was Emergency Management but as we conversed, he kept making note of a few things related to Crisis Management and each one seemed to begin with the letter “C”.  I don’t know if it was something that was intentional or if it was something that was just coming across due to the language difficulties between us, which I didn’t find that difficult by the way.  Anyway, I thought I’d make note of them and provide a description of what he was getting across.

In every crisis, disaster or emergency situation, which he was defining as a larger community based disaster such as an earthquake (hey, he was part of the Great Sichuan Earthquake of 2008, China).  Listening to him was fascinating, as he was actually there and a part of the recovery and coordination efforts related to the massive Chinese earthquake that killed 10’s of thousands – if not more.  So here are the 6 C’s of Crisis Management – and I haven’t put them in any specific order in case you’re wondering…

  1. Contain – First, get a grip on the situation and don’t let it spread any further and do any more damage that it already has.  I guess a good example of his would be a fire and how fire fighters contain a blaze.  Even firefighters fighting brush fires burn a perimeter (a controlled burn) to ensure the fire stays contained within a certain area.  I know some of you will have experience on this disaster, so feel free to add details on how that’s done.  It’s in every organization’s best interest to ensure that a situation doesn’t get out of control – so contain it and don’t let the situation spread.
  2. Control – Take charge of the situation and don’t wait for it to play out in front of you – it could be too late.  If an organization doesn’t take control of the situation – through media and its Crisis Team structure – someone or something else will take control of it for you.  For instance, if there’s no media represented updates on the situation, then speculation and rumour will begin to run rampant. Try then to gain control of the situation – it will be next to impossible because the media (bless ‘em) will begin to make its own assumptions and presentation on what the situation is.  You’ll be fighting two fires now; the situation itself and the possible misrepresentation in the media.  Take command of the situation.
  3. Command – This referred to the various components and members of the Crisis Team and Crisis Team structures (I.e. Disaster Teams).  Take charge of the situation (…is that another “C”?) and ensure that you’re on top of things.  You can even be on top of things if you don’t have the full scale and scope of the situation yet.  You do this by taking command and having proper protocols – that have been rehearsed and validated – that everyone understands and utilizes to ensure the situation is under control.  It outlines proper roles and responsibilities that team members follow to allow proper response, crisis management, restoration and recovery efforts to be initiated.
  4. Continue – This is what you want most for you business operations, right?  After any disaster or crisis, you want to be able to continue your operations one way or another and usually the sooner the better.  The longer you’re out the greater the impact will be on your bottom line, community, shareholders, clients and employees.  All your plans and procedures should be in place not just to address and manage the crisis but to allow your operations to continue.  Managing a crisis effectively doesn’t mean your business will continue.  Business Continuity will work when the crisis is being managed effectively, if not, you’re going to end up diverting resources to ‘fire fighting’ rather than ensuring the business continues.  They go together and if you don’t have one without the other, it’s like walking a straight line while jumping on a pogo stick cross-eyed. 
  5. Communicate – Communicate quickly, often and effectively.   You’ve got more audiences that you think you have and they will all need to be addressed.  The Board of Directors will be seeking different levels of information than what the public is seeking, which is different than what your employees need.  Don’t just spit out generic comments and expect everyone to understand it.   Not every message is received the same way – and if you’ve got different people delivering the message, then you can expect differences in delivery as well.  What ever you do, don’t say “No comment” or “Off the Record”  – that’s just asking for trouble.  There’s not such thing as off the record – not in today’s world of technology and if you say ‘no comment’ it’s interpreted as something is being hidden.  If media – or anyone for that matter – thinks your hiding something or lying, you’re going to be “guilty” in the eyes of everyone who heard the message.  And those that didn’t hear it, will read and see it on the news.  Refer back to the comments in #2. 
  6. Care – Show you care about people, especially those impacted by the situation. This includes your employees.  Often, corporations will talk about the impact on customers and clients but forget the employees. Wouldn’t that make employees feel they aren’t cared for?  After all, they are the ones closest to, and the first ones influenced, by the situation (assuming an internal fire or other crisis).  I read recently a great article that said, speak and communicate to people’s emotions and how they see the disaster, not how you – the organization – sees it.  You have a better chance of controlling and containing situation is you speak the hearts and minds of people rather than to the pocketbooks of shareholders and bank managers, or worse, speak as you’re the victim.  

 I liked what he had to say overall and was busy in the back of my mind comparing his thoughts and comments to BCM and how he was also describing the crisis management component of BCM.  I know his perspective was large grander but the principles were all the same. I could go on and on into more detail but I have a 2nd and 3rd book to complete first – maybe this topic will make it on the list of other items to write about (I’ve a list of 11 books so far…).

 I think I should add that after our discussion he was presenting at the conference I was attending in Beijing (The International Emergency Management Society – TIEMS) and he only seemed to make note of 4 C’s.  But then again I was listening to his speech through a translator and he may have said all 6 from our discussion but the translator may have missed it.  May be the 2 C’s were ‘Lost in Translation’ ha ha 

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