Special Report: How to prepare for crisis management

There is a “vulnerability gap” among firms who believe they respond well in a crisis but who don’t have the right processes in place, according to Deloitte.

Bob Judson, director of risk advisory at Deloitte, said fewer than half of firms surveyed routinely monitor communications to detect trouble and just a third do regular training exercises.

This contrasts with the 79% of companies surveyed who believe their organisation would respond effectively in a crisis.

“That’s very much typical of what I see in our work at Deloitte.

“The readiness piece, to make you resilient, is more ‘rabbit in the headlights’.

“It’s not high on the agenda across many organisations. They are more focused on the day to day, business as usual.”

Judson said firms tend to be better prepared for regular crises that impact their bottom line than unusual events perceived as low‑risk but that could be devastating, such as natural disasters and terrorism.

“You do not have to be targeted directly,” warned Judson. “You just have to be caught up in it. Minor incidents can spiral out of control and end up being significant crises.”

Judson cited the Volkswagen emissions scandal as an example of just such a crisis that became contagious and went global.

Robert Jensen, chief executive of Kenyon International Emergency Services, said the key task for any firm caught up in a serious crisis was to help the families of those affected.

“You will cease to have ‘employees’ or ‘customers’; you will have families who will judge you based on what you do to help them transition to what is the new normal.

“I do not have a magic wand; we will just not make it any worse.

“You cannot un-injure someone; you cannot bring someone back from the dead.”

Kolatsis: Saying sorry is not an admission of guilt

Saying sorry after a serious incident is not an admission of guilt, a leading industry lawyer told the Business Breakfast on crisis management.

Joanna Kolatsis, partner and head of travel and aviation at law firm Hill Dickinson, said any firm advised by their lawyer not to say sorry should change their law firm.

The panel was discussing the issue in the light of the response by Thomas Cook after two children were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in one of its Greek properties in 2006.

Kolatsis said: “There is a feeling that if you say sorry you have done something wrong. An apology is not an admission of liability, it’s an expression of sympathy.

“If people have died, you are genuinely sorry about that. It’s OK to say sorry.”

Deloitte’s Bob Judson said the Cook case played out in a “really ugly way” for it as an organisation.

“They just looked totally unsympathetic [by not saying sorry]; it does not matter if they were or they were not,” he said.

Judson contrasted that with the way Alton Towers, and its parent Merlin Entertainments, handled the aftermath of the Smiler rollercoaster crash. “They were very proactive about what they were doing in terms of an apology and dealing with the victims behind the scenes,” he said. “It makes a huge difference in the way your corporate image comes across.”

The panel acknowledged that the current Cook management had done a good job in rectifying the mistakes of the past.

Jensen, of Kenyon International Emergency Services, said: “I’m amazed by businesses that try to defuse a bomb that’s already exploded. The first thing you say is ‘I’m sorry’ and be transparent about what you’re going to do to help. [Yet] people want to put up a wall because they are afraid of criminal prosecution.”

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