After the September 11th terrorist attacks, and the recent anthrax threats, people are searching for answers. They want to know what could have been done to prevent these horrible acts and what needs ot be done to curb future terrorist attacks. For starters, Joe Gleason, managing director for the public relations firm of Manning, Selvage, and Lee, has a few tips for the corporate world on coping with the anthrax crisis. Gleason who has dealt with such crises as Denny's racial discrimination case a few years ago and Nike's dealing with third world labor, says "Companies should prepare in concentric circles," in order to be ready for future attacks.
Procedures For Good Crisis Management
When a crisis occurs panic sets in with the public sector, it is at this time that businesses, and political leaders must reassure the public that the crises are being handled correctly. First, businesses and the government must act in the public interest. The public should be protected, but America cannot come to a stand still. An excellent example of how to act in the public interest is how the Postal service handled the anthrax scare. As soon as anthrax was found in packages and letters sent through the U.S. Mail, the Postal Service sent out a video news release to over 200 stations in the United States. This VNR produced by the KEF Media firm showed postal inspector Kenneth Weaver warning people not to open packages from unknown origins, or suspicious letters marked "personal" or "confidential."
The next aspect for good crisis management is to lead, not hide. The National Enquirer did not stop printing its publication when anthrax was discovered in one of its officies. Nor did the USPS stop delivering mail when anthrax was being spread through letters and packages. These companies addressed these crises and produced procedures to deal with the problems at hand.
The next steps in dealing with a crisis are to move quickly and fix the problem. The public relations firms that worked with the post office tried to reassure the public that the U.S. Mail was safe and still a good way to send communications. The also had to come up with an internal response for the safety of their employees, this was achieved through training sessions and preventative equipment. As soon as these measures were in place steps were taken to stop the spread of anthrax by checking packages for signs of contamination (i.e. rips, white or yellow powder).
Communication is another key to the succesful management of a crisis. It is important that information is conveyed honestly and accurately to the public so that their trust is not betrayed. The fifth element of crisis management is to show compassion. The United States Postal Service showed compassion to its workers who contracted anthrax and died, as well as the public for their continual efforts to use the Postal Service.
The final aspect of crisis management is to restore credibility. Customers must feel safe when they use a service that has encountered a recent crisis or they will stop using that business. The USPS had a difficult time reassurring its customers that it was safe to use the mail because of the press that the anthrax problem received. Due to the limited scope of the attack this story did recieve a bit too much air time, and that help to create panic in the American people.