Thursday, 11 May 2017

How to handle a crisis

Over the years, I have done a fair bit of media training. One of the things I have learned is that when an organisational crisis arises, organisational silence is normally a poor strategy. Whilst the organisation is silent, the vacuum is filled by others, with bits of information, speculation, possibly even misinformation (deliberate or otherwise).

Yet in the early days of a developing crisis the organisation at the heart of it often has very little knowledge of what has actually gone on, so silence is very tempting.

However, instead of that, there is a well-established formula for a quick response:


The first thing to do is to express pity for the victims of a disaster, and their relations; in a less severe crisis, that translates to sympathy for those inconvenienced or wronged in any way.

The second thing to do is to praise the emergency services, or members of staff who stepped up to the challenge, or the public who stepped in to help. Or in a less severe crisis, the whistle blower who brought it to the organisation's attention, or others who have helped in any way.

Finally, the organisation makes a promise: not a specific promise at this stage, as it is often too early to do so, but a general promise that an investigation will be undertaken, that the lessons will be learned; and that actions will be taken to eliminate or minimise the risk of a recurrence, or to mitigate the impact, if the risk can't be mitigated, and if appropriate to compensate those wronged or disadvantaged.

So if I were the Head of Communications for the CBCEW (which would be an interesting role, it must be admitted, and not without challenges...) I would have advised them, very early on, to issue a statement.
The CBCEW is very concerned to learn that something has clearly gone wrong in the development of new guidelines for schools, intended to address bullying. The bishops would like to express their sympathy with all those who have been shocked or distressed by this, and in particular to express their thanks to all the concerned parents who wrote to them to bring the matter to their attention. The Conference has already commissioned an independent review to establish precisely what has gone wrong, in terms of operational issues and governance, that has led to this situation. The recommendations of the final report will be made public (except where there are serious considerations of confidentiality, eg relating to disciplinary action with regard to specific individuals), as will the bishops' response and the actions to be taken in the light of the report.
Anything less than that leaves a cloud hanging over the issue; and given the historic lack of transparency about crises in the Church in England, the further erosion of trust.

And pesky bloggers such as that Ben Trovato chap will keep banging on about unanswered questions - such as Did Stonewall in fact donate money to the CES?  and if so, Who knew?

1 comment:

Fr said...

We'll pobably be told to hold our tongues...