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Communication crisis is crucial

PLANNING for the worst and hoping for the best is the crux of crisis communications, according to Lynch Strategy and Communications principal Kym Lynch.

Ms Lynch, an international speaker and lecturer on the management of communications in crisis and emergency situations, was in Perth recently to address the International Association of Business Communicators.

Her Melbourne-based consultancy deals with all aspects of business continuity, crisis and emergency management including risk assessment, plan development, drills, simulations and performance auditing, plus media relations and image and reputation management.

“Crisis communications must be part of any business plan,” Mrs Lynch said.

“Any issue is a business risk. These have to be firstly recognised then graded for severity. But how do you know when an issue has turned into a crisis?

“There are early warning signs: keep an eye out for padrones, that is, signs and signals that an issue is not moving in the right way. Padrones give increased evidence of ‘sleeping’ issues.

“Take Qantas for example: 10 months ago there were a number of incidents that cast a cloud over its safety performance. There was never a crash but the culmination of a handful of incidents very quickly became a crisis – its image was more in tatters than it had been in its entire history.

“Its handling of the issue was fortunate – a very patriotic advertising campaign was timed perfectly with the Olympics. All they need, though, is the emergence of sleeping issues and it’s back on the front page.”

Mrs Lynch said the most volatile mix for a communications crisis was several events occurring at once and media creation (a slow news day).

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