Crisis and croissants at Bladonmore’s breakfast

Late February saw Bladonmore host the latest in a series of communications breakfasts at our London office. Jen Smith, Crisis Manager (Europe and Africa) at Mastercard and Kevin O’Leary, former Head of Covert Operations for New Scotland Yard and Detective Chief Superintendent in charge of London 2012, joined Bladonmore Partner Matt Guarente to talk Crisis Communication… and how to win Channel 4’s Hunted.

We take a look back at the topics discussed…

Acting with the head or the heart

Crafting the right response to a crisis can be a real challenge, and the balance between empathy and detachment was seen as a core battle ground. A compassionate response can bank a certain amount of goodwill; however, it may inadvertently result in shouldering unwanted (and sometimes unwarranted) responsibility for a catastrophe. Either way, a response must be rapid: delayed reactions trigger blame as those affected seek to shape a narrative.

Familiar foes

Cyber security and the ambiguity surrounding Brexit were front of mind with the speakers, while there was unanimous agreement on the dangers of ‘fake news’. The speed at which opinion can morph into misinformation presents a very real threat, yet the view from the front was not all doom and gloom. The same digital channels posing tricky challenges to businesses’ reputations have also provided an alternative way to engage with the public during times of crisis. Likewise, public opinion can now be better quantified, analysed and understood to gauge the effectiveness of a response.

Making mountains out of molehills

The importance of comprehensive preparation and a sense of perspective were underlined. Planning for the worst was paramount, establishing a comprehensive and consistent process to tackle ‘normal accidents’ as opposed to makeshift responses around black swan events. But excessive reactions, while often well-meaning, could cause lasting damage.

Fundamental thinking

For our panel, three primary considerations remained essential when responding to any form of crisis:

  • Measured response – any reaction must be carefully assessed. While up against the clock, knee-jerk or ill-considered decisions can often end up making a situation worse – balance is everything.
  • Establishing a process – crises are synonymous with uncertainty and alarm. Having a clear, predefined plan of action to follow can help businesses to remain calm and regain control of a situation as quickly as possible.
  • Maintaining a presence – information and assurance are of real value during a crisis and getting the public onside can often be half the battle. Regular updates, however small, demonstrate a proactive response and a commitment to rectifying the issue at hand.

…and winning Hunted?

With Kevin O’Leary a current advisor and producer of the hit UK series, we had to ask…

The answer: be unpredictable, a little crazy and don’t resort to patterns of behaviour. Evidently, those best suited to life on the run may not be the people you want in charge of your crisis comms…

If you’re interested in attending Bladonmore’s future communications breakfasts, or would like to know more about how we can help your organisation with crisis communications, get in touch at:

  • Sign up for our latest news & views

Tom Brown

Senior Consultant

Tom produces a variety of strategic content, built around clear narrative and messaging.

You might also like:

Let’s talk about your story