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Good leadership is key to navigating a crisis

Good leadership is key to navigating a crisis

If recent crises and their aftermath have taught us anything, it is that a leader’s actions and comments before, during and after a crisis are absolutely critical to gaining support and understanding as the organisation works towards recovery or resolution.

Or to put it another way, you’re aiming for more Jacinda and rather less Theresa.

Good leaders understand that, while their teams may instinctively seek to batten down the hatches, their role is to ensure that the business is as prepared as possible, has an agreed response plan in place, and – crucially – a plan for recovery to allow the business to continue to operate.

This is even more important in this world of instant news consumption. The reality is that your audiences can be watching a crisis unfold before it is even on your organisation’s radar. These individuals may even be the ones to tell you about it. As result, expectations are now extremely high as to how a company responds to and communicates throughout a crisis.  And for most organisations that means they need a leader who can communicate quickly, clearly, and with empathy.

So what are the most common leadership mistakes during a crisis?  

Failing to have a plan in place is frighteningly common.  Almost half of businesses are guilty of sticking their head in the sand for crisis planning in the mistaken belief that you cannot plan for every crisis, so why bother?  But this is unwise when you consider the sobering fact that 82% of businesses report loss of revenue and loss of brand value as a result of a crisis.                                                 

Many businesses don’t think about what could go wrong.  Of course, you can never think of everything, but this exercise is important because it helps the business understand what they will need from both a communications and a business contingency planning perspective in the event of a crisis.  It also serves to educate your key managers on what types of issues could turn into a true crisis requiring external communications. This could be anything from delayed projects, accidents to staff, loss of investors, new legislation, disgruntled employees, data loss, through to more dramatic incidents such as fire or floods. Make that list.

Failure to identify and train spokespeople before a crisis hits is another common oversight. A wise leader has already selected the calmest heads and most credible spokespeople when the crisis chips are down.  It’s important to choose wisely and think about channels too.  Who is best for live TV and can think on their feet?  Who is great with detail and can brief a trade title?

Responding before you have all the facts should be avoided.  One of the best weapons in fighting potential reputational damage is arming your spokespeople and then your audiences with the facts.  The first task is to figure out what those are – or if you can’t get the answers quick enough, identify a process for getting them. Then, you have to decide how much of this information you can communicate publicly.   More is usually better, but you also have to consider legal and other restrictions.  If this applies, explain why and set out the timescales.

Failing to switch off marketing and sales activities can also land you in hot water.  We have all seen inappropriate or badly timed marketing messages from a company during a crisis.  Make sure you have a process in place to suppress all but essential messaging until the crisis is over.  It’s a good idea to have a stripped back website ready to be published quickly with all unnecessary promotional information removed.  This stays hidden from public view until it is needed.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of building up a bank of goodwill with key stakeholders and media. And do this before you’re in the eye of the storm.

By acting fairly and transparently, communicating a sense of your values and the benefits you offer your employees, customers and other key audiences, and showing a level of responsiveness on the small stuff, people will forgive you more quickly when something goes wrong.  Your teams will thank you too.

Mactaggart & Mickel secures planning permission for second English housing development

Mactaggart & Mickel secures planning permission for second English housing development

Mactaggart & Mickel Homes England, part of the Mactaggart & Mickel Group, have received planning permission for their second English housing development at East Challow, near Wantage in Oxfordshire.

The five-star Home Builder Federation (HBF)-rated housebuilder also recently opened an office in Cheltenham, where they will initially create around 20 full time jobs for local people, as they expand into the English housebuilding market.

The housing development at East Challow received planning consent for 38 new homes – a mixture of 25, two- to five-bedroom private homes and 13 one- to three-bedroom affordable homes. The private homes will be two-, three- and four-bedroom homes.

This marks an important step for the company, following their move into the English housebuilding market as they plan to broaden their geographical reach to a UK wide audience.

Craig Ormond, Company Director at Mactaggart & Mickel Homes England Ltd, said:

“We look forward to starting work at this exciting new quality development at East Challow. As well as providing new quality housing, we will be working with local suppliers and contributing to the local economy. We plan to be on site later this year.”

How to get the most out of broadcast interviews

How to get the most out of broadcast interviews



By Clare Todd

Most mornings, as I get ready for work, I listen to radio news to get a jump-start on the news of the day.
Some items are of more interest than others but what always stops me in my tracks is a live interview going spectacularly wrong – at least as far as the interviewee is concerned.

I stop what I am doing, turn up the volume, and listen to the back and forth, sometimes with amusement but more often with incredulity. As a communicator of 25 years’ standing, it’s painfully clear to me that the person squirming in the studio or stuttering down the line has not properly prepared or more specifically been media-trained to cope with this high-pressure situation that is unlike any other conversation they will have.

While many people are skilled and confident in media situations, I have lost count of the number of senior people who shy away from broadcast interviews when asked to step in front of the microphone or camera. They are happy to provide a quote for a release, of course, but ask them to follow this up with a broadcast interview and they run for cover, mumbling about a forgotten dental appointment.

Some lucky people are naturally good at media interviews. But for the rest of us mere mortals, we have to learn how to handle them. And the good news is, it’s not rocket science. The approach is a bit different depending on whether an interview is live or recorded but the principles are the same. The first is to find out – or work out – what you are going to be asked and in what role you are being interviewed – industry expert, passive witness or even villain.

The one question that is often missed is finding out who else is being interviewed. Is your interview standalone or are you being pitted against the opposite perspective? Broadcasters in particular are duty-bound to demonstrate balance, so sharing conflicting views is standard practice. Much better to know the context of other interviewees so you are not caught on the back foot live on air.

While Theresa May’s “strong and stable” message became a negative, it’s still important to remember an interview is not a normal conversation, so be really clear on the two or three key points you want to convey – and make them quickly. Finally, practise the interview in advance.

Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that, and that’s where media training comes in. A decent media training package will include the above and more, ensuring that your senior team is prepared to represent the organisation in a professional manner. External trainers will also flag up any industry jargon that would prevent people understanding what you are saying. Rail bosses used to talk about “strengthening trains” until it was pointed out to them that “adding carriages” might make more sense to passengers.

If you decide to invest in media training make sure that the content suits the likely needs of your organisation. For example, you may not need to practise in an expensive recording studio. All too often, one reporter will use their smartphone and a plug-in microphone. So look out for a company that has moved with the digital times.

And finally – a heartfelt plea here – please hold the training before you are facing a crisis or damage-limitation. We can help you either way, but being prepared makes practical and financial sense. The so-called “golden hour” – the chance to get prepared before a big story breaks – no longer exists thanks to social media. If you are finding out, chances are so are your audiences.

Like it or not, your customers and stakeholders are influenced by what they see, read and hear about you and your organisation on media and social media channels. They may not read your annual report, but they will remember the time you were skewered live on air over the nation’s breakfast tables.

This article originally appeared on 

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