Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Nine C's of Crisis Communications - Part Three

By Thomas Murrell MBA, CSP International Business Speaker

Nine weeks is a long time in the oil industry. Especially if you have a leak that has so far cost more than five million dollars just in clean-up costs.

Oil has been leaking from the West Atlas drill site in the Timor Sea since August 21 2009.

Despite three attempts, the leak is technically difficult to stop. A fourth effort will be made on Friday.

The longer it goes on the more it is a PR disaster for the oil and gas industry.

Chairman of one of Australia's largest operators, Woodside Limited, Michael Chaney confirmed at a University of Western Australia Graduate Management Association function last night that Woodside had offered to help but this was rejected.

Green activists continue to try and keep the issue in the public eye despite the oil rig being in such a remote location.

West Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert was quoted in various media as saying:

"Today's figures do not cover potential costs and damages to industries such as the $8 million-a-year fishery and tourism that operates in the vicinity of the spill," she said.

"Nor the long-term costs in terms of damage to the marine environment.

"This backs the growing calls for oil and gas operators to be required to contribute to a trust fund and improved insurance arrangements."

This is in the context of the A$43billion dollar Gorgon development and the even bigger proposed Browse Basin development in the West Kimberley.

The company that owns the rig, PTTEP Australasia, part of Thailand's only publicly listed oil exploration company, is sticking to the facts only and has made limited public comment.

A good strategy for an incident like this, but rejecting Woodside's offer of help could come back to haunt them - even from a PR perspective as the issue drags on.

This is all happening while the stigma of one of the world's worst oil spills continues for Exxon 20 years on.

After the crisis, more than 18,000 customers sent their Exxon credit cards back to the company.

Media and political comments were extremely hostile.

Exxon fell from 8th to 110th on Fortune's list of most admired US companies.

The direct cost to the company in punitive damages, compensation and clean-up operations was well over $10 billion and the incident is still being talked about.

So what should you do in a crisis like an oil spill?

Here are the Nine C's of crisis communications, and the third and final three.

7. Convene

Get together a crisis team and hold a media conference to regularly update stakeholders in an efficient, controlled and timely way.

My research has failed to show any evidence that PTTEP Australasia has held a media conference on the oil spill.

8. Connect

Have up to date databases and distribution systems to get information out.

Social media channels are becoming increasingly important in a crisis.

9. Clarify and review

Learn from past experiences.

Run hypothetical crisis training to road test your systems, messages and people.

Contact me if you want crisis training for your organisation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yahoo Bamboo - Launch Party for BNI Bamboo West


I was fortunate to be asked to be the MC for the launch party of BNI Bamboo West called Bamboo Yahoo held at the Canton Lounge Bar in Perth.

Pictured with the beautiful people of Perth's premier, high quality business networking group from left to right: Lorinska Anderson, Ben Kahan - Professionals Property Perth, Andrew Merrington - All About You Financial Services, Paul Blake - Allwest Financial Group and former models Heidi and Christie.

Please contact me if you are interested in hearing more about the benefits of being in a networking group.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crisis and Issues Management: How To Manage A Crisis: Crisis Communications


Pictured with Daniel Wong, Presenter/Producer BFM 89.9, The Business Station, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Malaysia.

Listen to the podcast of the interviews here.

Tom Murrell, International Business Speaker and Author talks about how companies should deal with crisis and issues.
Duration: 13m 45s Filesize: 6.31 Mb





Could you give us an example of a well managed crisis?

Duration: 15m 11s Filesize: 6.95 Mb

Monday, October 19, 2009

Essentials of Media, Stakeholder and Investor Relations Held on September 10th 2009 with the Chartered Secretaries Australia Limited in Perth


Pictured with participants:

Comments from participants:

"Well informed and experienced presenter and very informative day. Good set of take away tools and ideas."

"A most accomplished, engaging and knowledgeable presenter and teacher." Brad Farmer - Bauxite Resources Limited

"Very helpful and informative. Highly recommended." Helen Trlin, Bauxite Resources Limited

The Nine C's of Crisis Communications - Part Two

By Thomas Murrell MBA, CSP International Business Speaker

Oil has been leaking from the West Atlas drill site in the Timor Sea since August 21. The leak is technically difficult to stop and may take up to six weeks to cap because back up crews are required from Singapore or Indonesia.

In this delayed ongoing leaky state, the issue has turned into a PR battle between industry and environmentalists.

The story slowly subsided from public view, until the Greens in a PR masterstroke, hired a plane and professional camera crew and flew over the affected area.

They know the oil industry hasn't got the best reputation in the eyes of the public and this is a once in a generation opportunity to highlight the potential environmental risks associated with any natural resource development.

Their aim is to link the spill in the public's eye with the recently approved A$43billion dollar Gorgon development and the even bigger proposed Browse Basin development in the West Kimberley.

West Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert went all out with this seven second sound bite ideal for today's hyper-short news cycle, "literally, from horizon to horizon, you see the oil on the surface," she told a frenzied media.

Politicians, both at a Federal and State level, are of course keen to de-link the oil spill issue and distance it as much as possible from any future oil and gas developments.

In the media it is all about language.

The company that owns the rig, PTTEP Australasia, part of Thailand's only publicly listed oil exploration company, acted swiftly and activated its emergency management procedures.

It has downplayed the extent of the spill and has used words like incident and event in its communications.

The Greens on the other hand like to call it a crisis and disaster.

There's also debate over what information is accurate. The Greens claim 3000 barrels of oil a day are leaking into the environment while Government scientists estimate it s 400 barrels a day.

Then there's the size of the spill. The Greens estimate the slick at least 90 nautical miles long. Meanwhile, PTTEP estimate it to be an area of 8 nautical miles long and 30 meters wide and showing no signs of expanding. Based on a briefing by authorities, Senator Penny Wong told the senate it measures 70 nautical miles by 20 nautical miles.

This is all happening while the world remembers one of the world's worst oil spills.

Exxon placed a full page advertisement 10 days after the Alaskan incident of March 24, 1989, stating the company's regret but failing to accept responsibility.

Exxon then publicly squabbled with the State of Alaska and the US Coast Guard over delays in the clean-up effort.

Again, the company was seen to be trying to shift the blame.

It appeared aggressive and uncooperative.

It was apparent Exxon had no crisis plan prepared and had not taken the possibility of such a spill seriously.

So what should you do in a crisis like an oil spill?

Here are the Nine C's of crisis communications, and the second three.

4. Communicate

Make it quick, active, honest and sympathetic. Do it often, at least daily with a big incident.

Put customers, community and public interest first and company interest last.

Disclose, do not cover up.

Be Visible, do not hide.

5. Calm confidence

Be proactive, not reactive.

Be rational, not emotional.

Express human concern, not material concern.

6. Be Concise

Controlled media access, not uncontrolled media access.

Avoid phrases like "We don't know what is happening and don't care" and "We don't care and are not doing anything about it"

Instead use the following language: "We know what is happening" and "We are solving the problem".

Use an action taken response rather than a cause/blame response.

Media training key spokespeople is essential. The final three of the nine will be in the next edition in Part Three.

The Nine C's of Crisis Communications - Part One

By Thomas Murrell MBA, CSP International Business Speaker

Oil spills in pristine waters make good headlines.

In the news there has been a major oil spill in the Timor Sea near Western Australia's north coast.

Oil has been leaking from the West Atlas drill site resulting in a slick stretching more than 30 kilometres.

As with many leaks, the cause is not known.

Industry leaders believe the oil leak is deeply regrettable and will harm the industry's reputation.

The oil industry hasn't got the best reputation in the eyes of the public.

A crisis is any situation that threatens the integrity or reputation of your company. It is usually brought about by adverse or negative media attention.

There are two types with different strategies - - "Acute" crises - sudden, unexpected disasters like an oil spill.

"Chronic" crises - long-term crisis situations can be viewed as issues mismanaged. Examples might be a lack of hospital beds in the health care system. They may spark periodic acute crises during their lifespan.

For the oil industry, their poor reputation all started just over 20 years ago.

On March 24, 1989 one of the world's worst environmental disasters began when the huge oil tanker the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Around 240,000 barrels of oil were spilt polluting almost 1,800 kms of pristine coastline

The local fishing industry was decimated and more than 30,000 dead birds and 1,000 dead sea otters were counted.

What did Exxon do wrong?

Chairman Lawrence G. Rawl decided to stay in New York and sent lower-level officials to take charge in Alaska.

He decided all information should be released only at Valdez - the scene of the disaster. The remote town had limited facilities for the media preventing many journalists from getting their stories.

Exxon officials in New York refused to comment for nearly a week creating the impression of arrogance and the whiff of a cover-up.

Rawl made no public comment until 6 days after the accident and did not meet reporters or visit Alaska for over 3 weeks.

So what should you do in a crisis like an oil spill?

Here are the Nine C's of crisis communications, and the first three.

1. Commit to engage - no blame just facts

If you want to engage with stakeholders, do it quickly, accurately and stick to the facts and avoid the blame game. Especially in public.

Communicate with close relatives affected first, internal staff and key customers or suppliers second and thirdly external stakeholders via the media.

2. Clear plan

Having a crisis communications plan, team and resources in place is essential before a crisis happens.

3. Control agenda

Always control the agenda and the message.

Media training key spokespeople is essential. The next three of the nine will be in the next edition in Part Two.