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Be prepared... crisis communications plans

Posted on by Rebecca

The waste and recycling sector unfortunately doesn’t have the best health and safety record and is currently facing further negative PR following news that the average rate for fires in the sector stands at almost one per day.

While figures dropped in 2012, from 2011’s high of 335 fires, 2013 has seen some large, high profile cases namely that at J & A Young’s site in the West Midlands where tens of thousands of tonnes of recyclable material burned for days. Meanwhile in June a fire at an electronics recycler saw 300 tonnes of material lost.

Most crucially, no one has been injured in these instances, but they have still been covered across the national and trade media and sparked debate on whether existing permits and controls are far reaching enough. To ensure that the facts are correct from the outset and the opportunity for speculation is eliminated, it is critical to be prepared and put in place a crisis communications plan.

You can never predict when a crisis will hit (although 5pm on a Friday or 12pm on a Sunday seem popular) and who will be on duty at the time. Therefore, having a widely circulated plan, which at least includes points of contacts with phone numbers and emails and a process for handling enquiries is a good starting point. More in-depth planning can also include provision for some standard, pre approved statements for most common eventualities e.g. fires, thefts and injuries; therefore enabling a coordinated, appropriate and importantly timely response to any media interest. In today’s 24/7 media, the need for information and comment almost instantly, followed by regular updates, is one of the biggest challenges in managing crisis communications.

In putting such preparation in place, media training should be a prerequisite for key senior staff members to mitigate damage to a company’s brand – we can all remember the recent BP oil disaster and the (then) chief executive’s handling of questioning! The skills learned during such training not only equip spokespeople with the ability to appear confident and unfazed during interviews, which can often be a nerve-wracking experience, they are also beneficial in presenting the company in other high pressure situations, such as public or residents meetings.

If you want to investigate whether your crisis communication plan can stand up to the job, contact the Prova team to discuss undertaking a review or scenario testing.

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