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From Qantas to Gasp, BP to the Nursing Federation, crisis communication is certainly the flavour of the month – so it was timely that the November IABC Victoria ‘Be Heard’ event discussed issues of crisis and reputation management.

Held at The Wheeler Centre on 18 November, the event was well attended by more than 50 members and guests who heard Barbara Sharp (Director, Pax Populus) and Sam North (Media Director, Ogilvy Public Relations) debate what constitutes a crisis, and best practice for managing an organisation’s reputation in the event of a crisis.

Our panel members pitched two opposing approaches to crisis communication:

  1. Identify stakeholders and the individual messages and channels required to communicate with them, versus
  2. Act quickly to tell everyone everything

While the speakers agreed to disagree, there was consensus on the need to act quickly, responsibly and appear to be in control.


Other key outtakes from the discussion included:

  • Every one has a crisis communication plan until a crisis actually hits. Practice your plan, ensure multiple employees know it, and be prepared to be adaptive and flexible
  • Approximately 75% of crises are generated internally
  • Building and maintaining reputation before a crisis is critical. BP had a bad safety and environment reputation before the Gulf spill and for that reason had no leeway when the crisis hit
  • Make sure you measure your reputation on an ongoing basis and not just during crises
  • Social media ‘scares the pants off’ some practitioners when dealing with a crisis. The same principles of traditional crisis communication should apply, but it is important that you and your C-suite understand that it’s about engagement and not just having an online presence
  • If you’re not filling the gap with information, some one else will! If you’re confident of your decision and actions, back yourself and engage with the public. Do so not through spin, but by truly listening to, understanding and reaching a consensus with stakeholders

The discussion was facilitated by Immediate Past President Jennifer Frahm (Director, Conversations of Change) and a number of questions were raised by the audience. A big thank you must go to our guest panel members and to all those involved.

For additional insights from our guest panel, check out this great post by Mel Pay on her blog.

We look forward to seeing you at our next event – IABC Victoria Christmas drinks and networking on Thursday 1 December.

Click here for more information and to register >>