Monday, September 22, 2014

Someone Else's Crisis: Don't Let It Become Yours

      The crisis that can put you out of business, temporarily or permanently, is not always of your own making.
      Frequently we remind clients how very important it is to survey their surroundings and try to identify the things that can go wrong outside of their own facilities and property. You may have a small neighborhood business, or a medium size auto repair shop, or a well established community bank, or a nursery school or popular watering hole/restaurant.
     You may be operating in the shadow of an elevated expressway that has cars and big trucks whistling by within blocks of your business, or a CSX or Southern Railroad track that runs near your neighborhood on its way to and from bigger businesses not all that far away.
     You may have been going to work every day for years without ever thinking about the 24-inch steel pipeline buried underground 100-yards from the front door of your business carrying volatile oil, or gas or chemicals to customers on the other side of town.
     No matter how big or small your workplace is . . . No matter how many or how few employees you have . . . not only must you assess the things that can go wrong in your office, business or not-for-profit, but you must be constantly evaluating all the things that can go wrong and out of your control.
     The United States Government Accountability Office released a report this week which concluded: “Without timely action to address safety risks posed by increased transport of oil and gas by pipeline and rail, additional accidents that could have been prevented or mitigated may endanger the public and call into question the readiness of transportation networks in the new oil and gas environment.” Not to mention the disruption or destruction of your own business just because of where it is located.
     More than 400,000 carloads of crude oil were transported over North American rail track in 2013, compared to only 9,500 tanker loads in 2008. There were a handful of headline grabbing train wrecks in recent months that should get your attention and motivate you to prepare your own crisis plan if it happens again near your workplace. Just think about the awful disaster near a small town in Quebec, where a fiery tank train crash destroyed much of the town and killed nearly 50 residents.
    Don’t put off another week. Survey the area around your business or organization’s facilities. Look at the surrounding road access and egress. Make a list of things that can go wrong and begin work on a plan to deal with: “if this happens, what can we do?”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Are You Ready for Legionnaires' Disease?

Okay!  Here Smith goes again!  Probably writing about the next so-called Flu Pandemic!

NO!  I'm still worried about the NEXT world wide flu pandemic, but today I'm stirring up concern about a disease that's here and now and beginning to give plaintiff's lawyers hope for a very profitable next few years.

If you are in the healthcare industry -- hospitals, nursing homes, rehab facilities or even operate a spa or a fitness center -- you need to pay attention to the steady spread of Legionnaires' disease.

Also if you own or lease space in a shopping center with one or more air conditioner cooling towers on the roof, you should be paying attention and have them tested for contaminated cooling water.

Alabama alone has confirmed 41 cases of the deadly pneumonia type  disease from 2013, with 15 cases at a nursing home in Florence, AL, including one death and already this year another 18 confirmed cases and 2 deaths.

Alabama Department of Public Health Dr. Mary G. McIntyre says there were 3,000 cases reported to the U.S. Center for Disease Control in 2013, but she says a more realistic "estimate" of people hospitalized by the bacteria could be as high as 18,000.

Cases of Legionnaire's disease are most common in hospitals and nursing homes housing very ill and elderly patients. In November 2012 the Veterans Hospital in Pittsburgh reported six deaths and at least 22 infected veterans.

The Dartmouth, MA Police Station has been locked down for weeks after Legionella bacteria was detected in the building's hot-water heating system. At least one officer was infected before the
building was temporarily abandoned.

The first identified cases of Legionnaires' disease came during the 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia.  182 Legionnaires got sick and 29 died and today most people hear the term "Legionnaires' Disease" and think that was something that happened  38-years ago.

There are almost weekly reports of scattered cases across the U.S. and it's popping up in Europe, too. In 2012 four people died and 45 others required hospital care in Edinburg, Scotland.

So, now we get to the point -- why you should care, beyond for your own and your families' health.

In Edinburgh, Scotland the law firm of Irwin Mitchell represents 35 families who are seeking financial reimbursement and punitive damages. And, in Tampa, FL the Fernandez Law Firm is pursuing personal injury lawsuits on behalf of two elderly residents of the Meadows at Country Wood Retirement Community.

They were sickened by the bacteria that grew in warm, stagnant water in a decorative fountain near their retirement home. A third resident died and his family has its own wrongful-death lawsuit.

This is one of those things ICM calls a "smoldering crisis."  It is preventable.  You can anticipate it and head it off, all for a very nominal cost and with almost no disruption in your day-to-day operations.

  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Crisis Communication Certification Training Registration Time

The next Institute for Crisis Management's two-day and three-day Crisis Communication Certification Course is coming up July 22-23 & 24 and before it fills up, click here
http://crisisconsultant.com/registration-form/ to register and guarantee your place in the class.

The two-day crisis Certification Course is a thorough and intense examination of all the kinds of things that can go wrong in any organization, whether a multi-national corporation, a mom and pop business, higher ed, healthcare, a retail chain or a community not-for-profit. The workshop begins with a look inside the sudden, smoldering, bizarre and perceptual crises that can strike anywhere at any time.

Then the focus turns to the kind of planning that is needed to prepare any organization to prevent or minimize the damage from any of those potential crisis threats.  That includes how to identify the most likely vulnerabilities and how to select and train the right people for your crisis team.

Real life crisis case studies from the experiences of ICM consultants help drive home the importance of planning, preparing and training.

The second day ends with a two-and-a-half hour table top exercise taken from the real world of ICM clients.

The third, optional day, is devoted to media/spokesperson training.  Whether you have experience as the chief spokesperson for your company/organization or not, the third day will help you polish your skills and perhaps more significantly will give you tools and techniques to use to prepare the occasional spokesperson on your team.

That third day includes three on-camera experiences beginning with a "base-line" interview to start the day, followed by a mock news conference at mid-day and then the day ends with a sit-down, knee-to-knee, no holds barred, one-on-one interview to test what you have learned.

If July doesn't fit your schedule, the next ICM Crisis Communication Certification Course still has openings for Sept. 9-10 & 11, 2014.

Friday, April 18, 2014

BP Crisis Team Member Accused Of Profiting From 2010 Spill

When is the last time you heard about a member of a crisis team working on a major (or minor) corporate crisis that turned that crisis response into a personal million dollar windfall?

A former BP crisis team leader is facing federal insider trading charges for using confidential information about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.  He stands accused of taking advantage of the oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and polluted the ocean and coast of the Southeast United States to unload his $1-million portfolio of BP stock.

Keith Seilhan was responsible for coordinating BP's containment and clean-up response.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Seilhan of using insider crisis team information to "avoid losses and reap unjust profits" as BP securities dropped nearly 48-percent in the wake of the disaster.

In addition to the 11 deaths, the Gulf of Mexico was polluted with 84 days of uncontrolled spillage that dumped an estimated 200-million gallons of crude oil.  

Seilhan's attorney, Mary McNamara told USA Today reporter Kevin McCoy, her client wants to avoid further distraction and protracted litigation. And then she added, he's "widely respected for his work helping to lead the clean-up and containment efforts."

Was she talking about "the clean-up" of the spilled crude oil, or his alleged "cleaning up" financially?

In the days immediately after the explosion and uncontrolled flow of oil, the company publicly reported they were losing about 5,000 barrels of oil per day, but the SEC says Seilhan learned from his role on the crisis team that the rate of loss was between 64,000 to 110,000 barrels a day. He is accused of selling 87,512 shares of BP Stock and three BP stock-option grants.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The GM Recall and Social Media

General Motors has recently recalled, reluctantly and belatedly in some cases, 1.6-million cars and seem to concede that 12 people have died as a result of crashes in those cars in the past five years. 

There have been reports that many more have died because of defective ignition switches in six models of  GM cars and the company is getting hammered for not revealing the danger for years.

That's the bad news.  But, the good news is the company, under the leadership of its new CEO Mary Barra, is beginning to take action and actually doing a number of things well. She has appeared in video messages to customers and employees and generally said the right things and mostly delivered her messages in a believable and sincere manner.

The company is still using conventional methods of reaching out to key audiences, using direct mail, blogs and a beefed up call center, but it now has a team of 20 people working in its Detroit social media center responding to complaints and inquiries seven days a week.  And they appear to be inviting unhappy customers and others "off-line" for private and personal discussions, leading to efforts by the car company to resolve issues and speed up loaner car requests and repair to the defective automobiles.

Crimson Hexagon, a social media research company in Boston, reports about 26-percent of Twitter postings that mention GM are "positive" while 71-percent have been neutral and only three-percent have been negative.

According to Crimson Hexagon's Elizabeth Breese, most of the public discussion about the defective GM cars and the company's feet dragging, is being "driven by auto, business and media authors."

It's worth a visit to GM's Facebook page to see what a relatively small number of unhappy customers are writing and all the other things car people are talking about, totally unrelated to the negative "defect" issue.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A CEO Finally Did It Right!


                 Finally, a Corporate CEO did the right thing, in the right way, after explaining a corporate decision terribly inappropriately and talking too bluntly about it publicly.
            By now, you’ve heard about the very public “foot in mouth” comments by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong.  In case you’ve been out of touch for a couple of days, here’s a quick recap.

            In recent months at least two employees of AOL or one of its subsidiaries have had children with major medical expenses.  One was born four months premature and suffered complications that could have led to its death.  In fact the family was told their little baby girl had a one in three chance of dying before she was strong enough to go home.

            But with a little miracle and very dedicated healthcare professionals working around the clock, the infant is flourishing and home with her family.

            Now, how could such a happy ending cause so much grief for AOL’s Armstrong?
            Last week Armstrong was speaking to a “town hall” of AOL employees and announced he was cutting their 401 (k) benefits and linked his decision to two employee families with sick infants. 

            One mother, Deanna Fei reacted publicly and strongly in a first-person story for the on-line magazine Slate.  She took exception to what Armstrong said in his town hall comments saying “how (he) exposed the most searing experience of our lives . . . for no other purpose than an absurd justification for corporate cost cutting.”
            She said when she heard about his comments and justification for the benefit reductions, “It just seemed so completely dehumanizing . . . “ and “ . . .a violation, for singling us out for using the health plan we paid for.”

            By Sunday, Armstrong not only decided to reinstate the 401 (k) benefits, but he telephoned Fei, with what she described as a “heartfelt apology, saying he was sorry for telling staff that costs associated with two employee’s sick infants formed part of the reason for cutting” everyone else’s benefits.
            She would not go into detail about what he said to her, but she said he spoke to her “as a person to another person,” and not as a CEO.  “His apology was heartfelt and I appreciated it,” she said.
            When the company announced it would not cut 401 (k) benefits, Armstrong was quoted saying, “I made a mistake and I apologize for my comments last week at the town hall when I mentioned specific healthcare examples in trying to explain our decision making process around our employee benefit program.”

            A company spokesperson confirmed Armstrong had contacted both families and apologized.

            Better planning and a more thoughtful message announcing the benefit cuts would not have eased the potential financial loss to employees, but would have led to some disappointment but not the kind of negative public embarrassment the CEO  and AOL suffered.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

April Crisis Communication Certification Course -- Sign Up Now


If you’ve been thinking about crisis communication training or upgrading your past training with the Institute for Crisis Management, the clock is ticking on registration for the next two-day and optional three-day ICM Crisis Communication Certification Course April 22-23 & 24, 2014 in Louisville, KY.
 

The two-day intensive and thorough Crisis Communication Course includes an expanded focus on social media, both as a trigger for crises and as a tool to more effectively manage every kind of organizational crisis.
 

The optional third day is media/spokesperson training that includes three on-camera experiences and helps polish the participant and also teaches how to help prepare others in your organization to “meet the press.”
 

To learn more or to register click on this link:  http://crisisconsultant.com/workshops/
 

If you have questions about the ICM Crisis Communication Certification Course, call us toll free at 1-888-708-8351.
 

If April doesn’t work for your schedule there are still openings in the July 22-23 & 24, 2014 and September 9-10 & 11, 2014 workshops.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Crisis Communication Certification Course -- Sign Up Now

If you’ve been thinking about crisis communication training or upgrading your past training with the Institute for Crisis Management, the clock is ticking on registration for the first two-day and optional three-day ICM Crisis Communication Certification Course February 4-5 & 6, 2014 in Louisville, KY.

The two-day intensive and thorough Crisis Communication Course includes an expanded focus on social media, both as a trigger for crises and as a tool to more effectively manage every kind of organizational crisis.

The optional third day is media/spokesperson training that includes three on-camera experiences and helps polish the participant and also teaches how to help prepare others in your organization to “meet the press.”

To learn more or to register click on this link:  http://crisisconsultant.com/workshops/

If you have questions about the ICM Crisis Communication Certification Course, call us toll free at 1-888-708-8351 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-708-8351 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

If February doesn’t work for your schedule there are still openings in the April 22-23 & 24, 2014 and July 22-23 & 24, 2014 and September 9-10 & 11, 2014 workshops.