Showing attitude, taking responsibility and not "ducking away" require courage and good preparation – especially in crisis situations. Because who doesn't know it, the first impulse when the pressure rises: to take flight, to blame someone else or to attack yourself. "Showing your face in crisis" was the motto of the 13th Crisis Communication Conference of the German Press Academy in Berlin. We used the opportunity to discuss new approaches, methods and best cases with high-ranking experts from companies, ministries, institutions and consulting agencies.
The mindset decides in a crisis
Crises are neither avoidable nor predictable and therefore fundamentally impossible to plan. Martin Rieken (TUI tourism group) and flight captain and crisis coach Mark Geßner, among others, highlighted in their keynotes how organisations can prepare for crises. The unanimous opinion: As good as it is to have manuals and checklists in the drawer - the mindset of the actor is decisive. After all, success or failure often depends on the psychological effect of the appearance of a company board member or press spokesman. And only the personal attitude makes it possible to accept the concrete situation actively as challenge and to act appropriately, sovereignly and calmly. Ideally, the crisis even becomes an opportunity for improvement, renewal and economic growth.
Interface between the disciplines
How transparent communication at the interface to citizen or acceptance communication can create real added value for all parties involved was demonstrated by an award-winning case for the implementation of Castor transports on the Neckar. In the past, nuclear waste transports were synonymous with loud and often violent protests. The five Castor transports in 2017, for which the Baden-Württemberg energy supplier EnBW used a waterway for the first time in Germany, were quite different. Thanks to a prudent, proactive and long-term communication strategy, protests could not only be avoided as far as possible but a high degree of acceptance could be achieved among all stakeholders. The means: the greatest possible transparency and closeness to the citizens. The result: lower costs for companies and the general public, avoidance of image damage and the safest nuclear waste transports in the history of the Republic.
Crisis reporting and media management
An integral part of crisis management is the coordination of reporting and contact with the media as key multipliers for the public. Award-winning crisis journalist Sönke Iwersen (Head of Investigative Research at Handelsblatt) commented in a live interview on the question of what communicators should consider from a crisis perspective. He then took part in an open discussion in plenary on concrete measures and forms of behaviour in order to retain sovereignty of opinion in public debates.
Follow-up with positive error culture – professional issue management
Once the acute issue has been defused, everyone wants only one thing: to get back to day-to-day business as quickly as possible. Now there is the opportunity to live an open culture of error and to gain a positive benefit from the situation that has been overcome: What can we learn from the crisis and do better in the future? How can crises be prevented in the future? And where are the opportunities for organization, processes, reputation building or even the further development of the business model? The documentation and follow-up of the crisis offers a wide range of tools for analysis, evaluation and optimization - a treasure trove that only needs to be raised instead of returning to "business as usual" immediately.
Further information on our communicative consulting services for crises can be found in our Crisis Communication service area.