“I had no intuitive idea on how to move forward” was CEO Soren Skou’s response to the world’s deadliest cyber-attack which included Maersk, the world’s largest shipping conglomerate.
The June 2017 incident brought the shipping giant to its knees, affecting 800 ships carrying millions of tons of cargo to 76 global ports, and halted about 20% of all maritime shipping.
It was subsequently discovered that Russian military hackers released NotPetya, malware that first attacked computers in Ukraine and then accelerated globally. Other major companies hit were Merck, FedEx subsidiary TNT Express, and even some firms in Russia. By the time it was over, NotPetya had inflicted more than $10 billion in damages.
Who Needs a Crisis Plan?
Like having a portable fire extinguisher readily available in the kitchen and garage, every brand should have a crisis plan in place, too. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s no longer a question of whether a crisis will hit, but when.
When’s an Issue a Crisis?
Not every issue is a crisis. Basically, a crisis is an event that can close a company or severely affect it where recovery could take months and even years.
Think product recalls, brand misconduct like fraud, deception and even corruption, or negative publicity and/or lawsuits over discrimination, harassment and other improprieties.
As unlikely as occurrences of these issues may be, brands should have plans in place to address them, because it’s too late once it happens.
Other issues may arise and should also be managed on a per-case basis. What’s important is resolving each one as quickly and satisfactorily as possible. Allowing even a small issue to fester will only create the potential for it to escalate into a bigger challenge and problem.
Have a team ready if and when a crisis hits. Guidelines about responsibilities and procedures must be drafted and approved beforehand.
Other Key Parts
A major part of any plan includes who needs to be contacted and what needs to be done. Templates for press releases, social media posts, and mock Q&As might also be drafted to get a few steps ahead. Identifying and training spokespersons is a critical part.
In a major crisis, people expect to hear from the CEO and/or board chair. Each must receive appropriate training to be confident in responding to media questions with confidence, assurance and empathy.
As tempting as it may be to avoid the media and the public, a major crisis must be addressed head-on. It’s not the time to deflect blame on others or respond negatively. The words “no comment” should also be struck from any response.
How to Avoid a Crisis
That’s not possible. What’s realistic is minimizing the potential by assessing the current avenues and methods of communication. For social media accounts, brands should have a clear policy with guidelines and content rules. The latter should include who has accessibility, along with a system of checks to ensure that what’s being disseminated is correct and not offensive.
Like any other kind of campaign, it’s strongly advisable to conduct a post-crisis review. This can be invaluable in learning what went well and where there’s room for improvement. Any lessons learned should be part of revisions to a future crisis plan.