Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Could the Bank of America be the next target of Wikileaks?

What about your company?

A year ago, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange claimed to have in his possession a ton of digital data from a Bank of America executive and this week he reportedly promised to post some company’s confidential documents as his next act, following his most recent posting of diplomatic documents.

The disclosure of thousands of secret messages among U.S. officials and diplomats, has set the press and world capitols in a frenzy.

And that raises the question, how would your business or organization deal with the publication of controversial documents stolen from your computers?

You don’t have to be a super bank outed by Wikileaks. You can be a small or medium size business with a disgruntled employee and find your confidential and sensitive inter-office communication on the front page of your local newspaper, on the 6 o’clock news, or buried inside the Wall Street Journal.

What would you do? Who would you call? How would you respond?

Where would you find enough antacid tablets to get you through the initial publication and then the follow-up reaction from employees, customers/clients, partners, vendors, investors, AND the media?

As Scott McKain says, “It’s easier to PREPARE and PREVENT, than to REPAIR and REPENT?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Is Social Media In Your Crisis Plan?

If you are the chief communications officer – what used to be called the director of communications, or something similar – of your company or organization you have a slightly greater than one-third chance of facing a social media crisis, according to the annual Rising CCO III survey created by the executive search company Spencer Stuart and Weber Shandwick.

According to the recently released survey, 34% of chief communication officers reported their companies faced a “social media based” threat to their reputation in the past 12 months. And it was no surprise that 33% said they were not prepared to manage a social media crisis.

A bit of good news appeared in the survey finding: Crisis/issue management is an increasingly more important skill for future communicators. It is nearly twice as important according to the new survey compared to the 2007 survey – 33% then to 61% now.

Social media and blogging are gaining in relative value to communications officers, increasing from 28% in 2008 to 41% in importance in 2010.

Social media crises are a growing area of focus in the Institute for Crisis Management’s ICM Crisis Certification Course (http://crisisconsultant.com/certcourses_main.htm) as well as in custom crisis planning and training offered on-site to client organizations.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TSA's Pat Downs Create New Target for Terrorists

The Transportation Security Administration says there is credible intelligence information that indicates there will be more attempts to smuggle explosives on commercial airliners in the undergarments of suicide bombers.

As a result, a growing number of airports ranging from the small airport in Fort Wayne, IN, to Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport and Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. now require passengers to step into a scanning device that uses x-rays to see through your clothing. For safety reasons and for modesty, some passengers are refusing. They have the option of being thoroughly "patted down" in and around women's breasts and men and women's waist and underwear.

There has been a small uproar about the up-close-and-personal searches.

While contemplating my next air travel, a horrifying thought struck me.

Suicide bombers have reportedly strapped on explosives and boarded airplanes with intent to kill 200 fellow passengers.

What is to prevent one of those men, about to be searched in the security check-in area of a crowded airport from detonating that explosive and killing 200 people right there? The object is not necessarily just killing heathen Americans, but to spread terror across the country. That's why they are called terrorists.

The publicity that would follow an attack in LaGuardia Airport in New York City would rival the downing of the twin towers on September 11.

I hope TSA has a plan for that.

Do you suppose we'll get to the point in the United States, that if we plan to travel by air, we'll have to make an appointment for a TSA officer to come to our home and watch us get dressed, to make sure no one brings anything dangerous to the airport?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

TSA Lessons For Your Business

If your company or organization must make changes to meet a growing threat in your area of operations or service, make sure you have the people with the expertise and experience to lead your project, and if you do not have the experience in-house, then for goodness sakes, go outside for it.

When TSA rushed their new "pat-down" procedures in to operations this week, you would have thought they would have considered all the complications their new "security grope" would face.

In fact, they've had weeks to prepare to step up their so-called pat down procedures since the underwear bomber failed and months since the shoe bomber failed.

Did no one consider all the implants and medical devices that humans wear to stay alive, or just to appear more normal after life-threatening disease, accidents or surgery?

There was the flight attendant that had to remove her breast prostheses, in front of a line of waiting passengers. She had a breast removed because of cancer.

And the guy that wore a urostomy bag on his waist because he had no bladder, after surgery. What are they doing about the men and women who wear colostomy bags because they've had colon or rectal cancer?

I few years ago I had a wreck and had a number of screws holding my left foot together. I fly a lot. It was a nightmare then, because I always got pulled out of line and had my whole body wanded, because of hardware in one foot.

My late father-in-law wore a urostomy bag. Thank goodness he's not around to have some TSA agent squeeze it or hit it and knock it loose, dumping his "water" in the airport security area. At least, under the present rules, his shoes would not be soiled.

Back to your business. TSA apparently did not have the medical expertise on staff to help them with those kinds of issues.

There will be things you have to do to keep up with the competition, or ahead of the competition.

A crisis plan is one of those things. Most companies and other organizations rarely have the expertise on staff to prepare a crisis plan without missing some important elements. Don't pull a "TSA" and adopt a crisis plan that has flaws.

Call the Institute for Crisis Management or someone like ICM to help you with your plan development or updating.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Caught Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

3,299 paying customers and 1,167 crew members found themselves literally between the devil and the deep blue sea when the Carnival Cruise Liner Carnival Splendor was disabled by an engine room fire and left adrift 55 miles from the coast of Mexico.

Fortunately no one was injured. Unfortunately the fire left the big luxury liner adrift without power, steering, air conditioning, hot food, hot water, telephone or Internet service.

Tug boats were originally dispatched to tow the ship to Ensenada in Baja.

From Carnival Cruise Line’s public relations perspective, they faced two potential "bad choices" -- a disabled ship or having to tell more than 4,400 people they are going to be towed to Mexico. With the daily headlines about drug wars, Mexican shoot-outs and entire Mexican police departments either being murdered or quitting their jobs before they are murdered, many on board that ship might rather endure the dark and lack of air conditioning for a few days.

Within hours Carnival’s website had updated a message to friends and family of the passengers and crew, and future customers, about what had happened and what the company was doing to make good for those who had paid to take the seven day cruise.

Then, a day later, the company and Coast Guard announced they were changing plans and the big ship would be towed to San Diego. That avoided the potential negative reaction of all those people going ashore in Mexico, but the ship, under tow, is moving at about four-miles an hour, and the trip to San Diego was expected to take two to three days.

We maintain that two-thirds of all crises are preventable, but every now and then something will go wrong that cannot be avoided. That’s when you have to have anticipated those kinds of things and have three plans to deal with it.

The first plan is the operational plan: how to fight the fire, how to keep everyone safe.

The second plan is the communication plan: how to communicate with the people directly involved, how to communicate with their families, and others.

The third plan is the continuity and recovery plan.

BP Comes Through for Us Again

BP’s former CEO Tony Hayward has given us another teachable moment!

In an interview with the BBC, Hayward has conceded his company was not prepared for the disastrous oil rig explosion that left eleven workers dead and an oil spill that seemed to go on and spread forever.

He also confessed, the media frenzy that followed was bad enough, but the giant oil company faced financial ruin for a while because no one would loan them money to help cover the millions of dollars in daily losses BP was facing.

Hayward admitted the company’s contingency plans were nowhere near adequate and he told the British reporter “we were making it up day to day.”

And Hayward’s successor Bob Dudley confirmed to the BBC, ‘With a company the size of BP, its reputation, what it does – you almost can’t quite believe how close you are” to financial disaster.

The lesson is simple and stark: Imagine the worst thing that could ever go wrong with your organization and then imagine something a little worse. Then plan how you would manage that.

Plan for the operational part of the crisis. Plan for dealing with the communication challenges with employees, vendors, customers/clients, investors and regulators. Then develop a plan to help you recover from whatever can go wrong and return to near normal operations as quickly as possible.

Don’t get caught with your proverbial “pants down” like BP did.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Celery strikes again!

Why does it seem like so many processors of celery are mad at us and want to kill us?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has officially linked four deaths to contaminated celery processed in the SanGar Produce and Processing Co. plant in San Antonio, TX.

The state had closed the plant Oct. 20 and ordered a recall of all produce shipped from there since January. A few days later, the President of Sangar said independent testing found company produce was -- in his words -- "absolutely safe." And he vowed to "aggressively" fight the state's erroneous findings.

Now the feds have piled on and confirmed what Texas had already found.

Today, the company attorney declined to comment, claiming the Food and Drug Administration had not shared their findings with the company.

If you are in the food processing, selling or serving business, you can anticipate that at some time, you're very likely to ship or serve some tainted food products. And since it's a likely occurrence, you should have a crisis communication plan ready to activate, with a trained spokesperson ready to respond.

That plan should anticipate the likely foods that could be tainted; what you're going to do about it; who is going to speak for the company; what are they going to say; and how are they going to reassure employees, suppliers, customers and bankers or investors that you're going to fix the problem and work even harder to prevent another occurrence.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What were they thinking? Again!

With little more than two weeks to go before the election a Canton, Ohio McDonald's franchisee stuck a memo in its employee pay envelopes, using the McDonald's corporate logo, advising them to vote for three Republican candidates in the November election.

The memo said “if the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected we will not.”

Thinkprogress.org, in a blog post, accused the company of trying to “take over the world one minimum-wage vote at a time.”

The local franchisee, Paul Siegfried issued a statement saying to ”those I have offended, I sincerely apologize.” Never mind what he did was probably against state and federal election laws.

One lawyer is already threatening to sue him and McDonald's.

Then go back a couple of months when Target donated $150,000 to a campaign for a conservative Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who opposes gay marriage.

Independent and Democrat customers in Minnesota have started shopping elsewhere, while the CEO of Target, Gregg Steinhafel doesn’t seem to understand what the big deal is. Not only is the GOP candidate against gay marriage, he supports strict illegal immigration laws, and once advocated chemical castration for sex offenders.

Steinhafal issued a statement saying, “Let me be very clear, Target’s support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains our core value of our company.”

He should have added, “with the exception, of course, of the candidate we supported with our $150,000 donation.”

Mike Dean, head of the advocacy group Common Cause Minnesota, appealed to businesses and unions to think twice before donating to campaigns. “Just the reputation damage” this is doing to some companies, he said, “should be a compelling case of why these corporations should not give.”