On the occasion of the early spring… Corona and support for measures in Belgium – a case study

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I write my own opinion, not that of any organization.

The last days the weather was nice, last weekend there was even (again) a surprise of the trains filled with day trippers who wanted to go to the sea, and afterwards all wanted to go home again . According to the press, it was a huge mass of people at the sea side. The press had interviewed a few people. That gave an inspiration to apply my tool again to the support of the measures. The question I ask myself is, which aspects of support are failing here? Why did people seem to take a massive risk of contamination just to be able to go to sea? A challenge to try to measure support once more.

My analysis comes to the following color palette: (click for a better view)

Discussion:

Legitimacy: people indicated that they knew that the risk was still there, that it might not be a good idea to be packed together on a train.

Coherence of the target group through proximity of the issue to the target group: Lately there have been many people who do not have a dead or sick person in their personal circle of acquaintances.

Effectiveness: because more people hear that the figures fluctuate around a very high number of patients in hospitals and ICU they may doubt whether their own efforts really matter?

Purposefulness: the web pages of Sciensano show to anyone who wants to know clearly the evolution of the vaccinations. However, a barometer had been announced  and never came, vaccinations that were promised to the masses by saying that the end of the tunnel is in sight, but are dependent on the supplier who does not seem to deliver, while ambiguity remains why… All of that make the whole less transparent. There remain many unknowns. The people may even have lost purpose.

Efficiency: the government is insufficiently successful in showing in a transparent manner where the shoe is pinching. Demonstrating the effectiveness of the government’s own actions is done insufficient.

Perseverance: the people lose their discipline. There has been (for a long time now) corona fatigue. Many begin to believe their own false hope that there is no harm in it all, and take risks as a result.

Leadership: about this I do not look at the situation. It is unclear to me whether actors or other public figures with a good example have any influence at the moment. So I’m currently leaving it open.

Internalized: the people see the restrictions increasingly as a mandatory process. People probably know very well about themselves whether they are showing the behavior of a super diffuser, but partly due to the lack of perseverance and too little inspiration from above, they let themselves go.

Reputation: about this I do not look at the situation. I don’t know if people are currently attached to their personal reputation or if corona can continue to be seen as a force majeure. So I’m leaving it open at the moment.

Conclusion: there is a lot of red on the canvas. That is not good. It seems that the negative hope, the hope that it doesn’t do all that much harm, is winning over common sense. It has been stretched for too long a time. But what needs to be done is clear: persist and vaccinate as much as possible. We will desperately need that.

Crisis communication – practical PR strategies for reputation management and company survival

Editor: Peter F. Anthonissen

The fact that we live in a transparent world means that no organization is immune to the threat of a potential crisis . That (a crisis) does not necessarily mean a disaster that occurs. You can significantly limit the damage and sometimes turn it into an opportunity through the right communication. That communication can make or break you.

It is the transparency of communication, where most managers struggle, that allows the organization to create an image of openness. This is most appreciated by the stakeholders, they trust this the most. Preparation, speed, transparency and efficiency are the concepts that are of great importance.

A crisis plan (and a crisis communication plan) is an important asset in the VUCA world. Immunity does not exist, but dealing with a crisis and turning it into an opportunity is an art. Targeted and fast communication can even strengthen the reputation of the organization. Stakeholders and courts judge according to the approach. It is necessary to put people first, for the interests of the company. In that case, the organization often gets a second chance.

Training is essential if you ever need to speak to the media or get on the radio. Preparation is the key to success there too. That sometimes hurts the board members of an organization: they are busy, do not see the usefulness of it, or do not dare to reveal themselves. That can lead to a worsening of the situation when it comes to that.

The chance of being confronted with a crisis increases over time. Why? Which things cause a crisis? Human action errors, errors of judgment, not responding in a timely manner, not anticipating signals, mechanical errors, or simply denying that a crisis can affect anyone. It is also a fact that organizations are increasingly confronted with liability, which they have to make public. The public wants immediate accountability. And she wants to know what is being done about the crisis and how the problems are being tackled.

Some successful crisis communication principles are:

– Always assume the worst case scenario

– Make sure you have a CMP (Crisis Management Plan) and CCP (Crisis Communication Plan)

– Don’t waste time, don’t delay, so prepare

– People always come first

– Speed ​​of reaction to take and keep control of the situation

In addition: learn lessons from the crisis. It is not because the acute crisis situation is over that it is over. Take initiatives so that the same crisis can no longer occur. But also learn from crises that occur in the competition, or even in other sectors. The actions to be taken during a crisis must also be trained. Role plays can help with that. This shows the internal and external environment that the organization takes the crises seriously and is actively preparing. The crisis awareness of the employees is increasing and it is building credit with the public.

How about post-crisis with covid-19

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I write my own opinion.

With multiple vaccines and the global roll-out of vaccination in the pipeline, it is not only useful now but also desirable to take a look at what might be called the post-crisis phase.

In this post-crisis phase of covid-19 there will be opportunities. It must be a time for psychological, physical, social, emotional and economic recovery. This applies both on an individual level and on a social level. But it must also be a time of honest self-analysis of the crisis approach (by organizations and governments) , of lessons Identified in all sections of society, whereby doubts about yourself as a person, about your organization as a company and the authorities are central. In effective crisis management, there is always a post-crisis moment for debriefing with comments from the sidelines and commendations of the achievements. This self-assessment must be used for small and large improvements to the own operation, structure, culture, … of the organization, and corrections at all levels. One must dare to take a view on processes, systems and procedures up to the smallest details. This improves insight into their own functioning. The assessment provides the opportunity to apply renewed and especially motivated new insights . The fact that adjustments can be implemented suggests that the anxiety because of the perception of risks and resistance due to uncertainty as to change (through insights by the results obtained in the crisis), be transcended. Appropriate actions provide the basic operation for the prevention and processing of future crises. That way the organization can learn, modify administration and initiate a wide variety of changes. This under the motto “never again”. Because a crisis is often transient, the suffering takes an end and the memory of society is sometimes too short, the moment par excellence to make use of these levers must not be lost. Action must therefore be taken post-crisis if the innovation opportunities are to be used optimally.

Unfortunately, there is always collateral damage. People or organizations that will not be able to reach the post-crisis phase (alone). A crisis like covid-19 includes therefore often media attacks on governments and their agencies . The opportunity to provide answers to urgent needs that were first only latent, makes the organizations stop for a moment and often marks a turning point for these organizations, but also for society.

To thoroughly analyze crisis management afterwards, three types of “investigative board ‘s” are needed : one for the organization, one for a society within a country, and the authorities in the countries, and across countries. They represent with regard to society, every citizen as an individual and the victims and their families the fact that that the problem is being tackled on a permanent basis. Because the board represents the public as the ultimate stakeholder, they can be considered as legitimate, and as authority for the investigation.

The goal of the boards in a post-crisis phase is a permanent solution, which includes a pandemic plan with international cooperation as one of my wishes. That is possible when uncertainty is reduced, legitimacy is achieved, and each of the three boards proves to make efforts to establish a basis to address future crises as well as the consequences thereof. Intensive communication will have to be conducted about this, in order to continuously convince and keep the public informed of progress and planned actions. Note that the effects of actions, findings and conclusions in the accompanying investigations of the board can counteract these effects. Therefore, great skill in conducting in-depth objective investigations, drawing conclusions and making appropriate recommendations without external influences (industry or other governments) is required.

Each board is supported by experts from a large number of disciplines in such an assignment. In order to work effectively on solutions in the aftermath of the crisis, a 360 ° approach of the problem is required. This requires specialists who work together in a “modular system”. There are reasons for this

  • Extra expertise and hands at work for generating solutions
  • Direct access to much more data and decisions based on all available information (which is then much broader), where possible without involvement of the crisis teams that did their work during the crisis.

These experts also feed their own organization with information  from the research which they consider necessary. Factors affecting the size and diversity of the expert teams determine the severity of the pandemic , the methods that are involved (here organizational methods , policy action and vaccination technology), the collateral damage that occurs, the chance that a detailed narrative report will be written, numbers and circumstances of injured and deceased persons, public interest and the chance of a formal “board hearing” (committee hearing). The degree of public interest is perhaps the most complex to estimate here.

The expert teams and assessors must take the time to make a thorough analysis of the pandemic. Their report should not be actively public (due to too much technical detail, and potential privacy issues). It must however support the report of the board (committee) which have to be transparent to stakeholders and the public.

The board / committee then decides on a “public hearing” based on

  • Interest of the citizens.
  • Severity of the pandemic.
  • Quality of successes and severity of errors in dealing with the pandemic.
  • Benefits of all kinds with regard to a future pandemic. (e.g. when citizens, society and governments know how to arm themselves against another pandemic thanks to science)

A public hearing is the first real opportunity for the media to know something about the post crisis, but it is also a first chance for the organizations and the authorities and their board to communicate something to the press for their own benefit. So it must be thoroughly prepared. So if a party involved in the investigation wants something in the press, this must be discussed with his board in order to avoid contradiction.

Because contradiction causes anxiety and uncertainty, and even gives the impression after the crisis that the situation is not under control.

Strategic communication in crisis management – Lessons from the Airline Industry

Author: Sally J. Ray

The context of plane crashes is a central example of what threatens the legitimacy of the airline, its image and reputation, and the financial situation. It has a tendency to transmit across the industry, hitting not only the victims and the airline, but also the stakeholders. The aviation society must therefore protect its long-term interests and public image. To this end, an effective communication plan is critical. This can be built up according to the course of a crisis in three phases: pre-crisis, crisis and post-crisis. Furthermore, it should be borne in mind that the crisis extends to more than just the organization. It is a system with many interdependent variables, so focusing on only part of the system is limiting our understanding of the crisis and the communication involved.

In a plane crash, trying to understand the necessary communication raises a number of questions: which factors influence communication? How do these factors define the boundaries of the organization’s efforts to repair the reputation damage and resolve the crisis? Which communication strategies are the most effective? Which variables influence that effectiveness? How can an organization prepare to manage one of the crisis?

To effectively address the effects of a crisis, managers must understand its nature, management rules and the implications of right and wrong communications. This provides a sense of predictability and expectations when a crisis occurs.

Throughout the story, theory and practice are intertwined. The practice consists of a number of drawn-out cases of plane crashes, in which the communication is dissected in a “ scrutinizing ” way, each time identifying a number of crystal-clear lessons.

The six most important lessons of strategic communication in crisis management from the aviation sector are perhaps :

  • A key to effective crisis management is the development of a responsible organizational culture that values ​​safety and is sensitive to the dangers of its operational operation.
  • Planning for crises reduces some of the uncertainty associated with managing a crisis; however, crisis managers must anticipate the challenges of applying a rational plan to an irrational situation. This requires a 360 ° view: people with different backgrounds, education and interests must be recruited or a great deal of education and training must be provided.
  • An organization in crisis must communicate from the beginning that it is in control and is concerned about the situation.
  • An organization must be sensitive to stakeholder perceptions of the actions and reactions of the organization during the crisis.
  • The media attention determines the seriousness, significance and direction of the crisis and is directly reflected upon the organization’s image; therefore crisis managers need to have a very good understanding of the journalistic processes in covering a crisis.
  • When an organization defends its position or image, its strategic communication choice must be determined against the background of this unique crisis situation.

Another view of Covid-19 – what are its characteristics and what are the benefits for whom

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I write down my personal opinion.

Crises are characterized by surprise, insufficient information, stress, threats and a limited response time. Similarly with the waves of Covid-19. Although it was a Gray Rhino , the world was taken by surprise. Statistically, it is almost a certainty that something like this will happen every now and then. After all, I read somewhere that around 1,200 diseases do not evolve in a pandemic every year. A pandemic every 30 to 50 years is therefore not surprising. But human life is short, and in 50 years the focus on a potential threat to the masses easily weakens.

Such situations require immediate decision making, problem solving and communication. But a government needs time to switch, and switching multiple governments while the world is not yet properly connected in terms of public health is difficult. Moreover, these situations normally have a high degree of uncertainty as to the cause, the guilt, the reaction, the public perception, the solution. The cause must be known for a good solution. The question of guilt is not a topic for the crisis teams, lawyers can always argue about it later in courtrooms. But an sich does this question not contribute to the approach. The response must be the right one, as there is little time to learn from the mistakes. The public perception must be formed with the solutions that are found and the accompanying convincing communication. With Covid 19, there are two major classes of solutions: on the one hand, the six golden rules, which slow down the progression of the disease, which gives a chance for better results from the second type of solution: the vaccines.

Theoretically important here is the aspect of wrong decisions: they can happen in two ways:

  • Due to disagreements and conflicts in the team.
  • Groupthink: lack of independent thinkers.

But a crisis also has potential benefits: ( after Meyers, GC When it hits the fan: Managing the nine crises of business, 1986)

  • Attention is focused on a specific topic. Here that is the pandemic. This can also become problematic if other crises arise on the sidelines that escape attention.
  • It calls for cooperation. Broadly speaking , this seems to be successful: the crisis centers work together in the sense that information about the pandemic is even exchanged across countries.
  • The organization can show and prove its commitment to the disadvantaged and to society. To this end, in many countries the governments are digging deep into their pockets to try to suppress an economic disaster. Obviously, this cannot be done sufficiently, which means that solutions must also come from society itself.
  • The teams can show their problem solving skills. The term “teams” is broadly defined here. You have the originality of the private businesses that are forced to create alternative ways of working, people who started to manufacture face masks themselves during the shortages, but also large companies that work on vaccines, hospitals that had to redefine their operation and their cooperation, …
  • Heroes are born , and everyone knows the most important group of heroes of the pandemic: people in care professions, hospitals and nursing homes, but also volunteers at call centers and helplines such as suicide prevention and such.
  • Opportunities are being exploited more quickly , such as more home working in professions that can do this, and the installation of technologies that facilitate this.
  • Latent underlying problems arise , such as inadequate ICT support, but, and unfortunately, also the loneliness of many who have only contact with colleagues, marriages that have actually stopped functioning, that way forcing people to learn to choose for themselves where necessary, for each other where possible.
  • Changes can be made , such as the systematization of teleworking after the crisis, when “the office” can rather become a meeting place for many when physical meetings will be necessary for e.g. good contacts with colleagues.
  • New strategies arise , or old strategies are rediscovered. For example, the six golden rules to delay the pandemic.
  • There can be early warning systems designed. For example, measurements and statistics on them are used to predict a third wave, but also to be able to intervene quickly in this situation.
  • New competitive opportunities, products, new markets arise. Restaurants that deliver at home, cafes that ship rare beers in packages to order. Online sales that are booming.