BUILT Marketing Strategies

Orlando Crane Collapse Serves as a Reminder of the Importance of Crisis Communications Planning

By Michael A. Monahan, Founder, President & Lead Consultant, BUILT Marketing Strategies

Last year in Orlando, a construction crane fell onto a partially finished parking garage, causing one worker’s hospitalization, should have prompted every marketing expert, public relations person, and senior construction industry executive to ask a single, critical question. Does my organization have a robust, updated crisis communications plan ready for such situations? More significantly, do they possess the capability to execute it flawlessly with key leaders and assigned team members?

Three main parts define any crisis: the incident, response, and recovery. Each crisis typically impacts at least one of the three “P’s”: people, property, and processes. Whether the issue involves environmental health, safety concerns, financial matters, personnel and organizational changes, technology issues, or natural disasters, having an appropriate plan to navigate these storms is critical for any organization. From my experience, the simplest and most effective way to approach this plan involves a five-step action course:

1 – Crisis Preparation

Crises management effectiveness begins before any crisis occurs. Have you asked the right questions? What could go wrong? Do you have a plan? Who will be involved? Who are the stakeholders? How can you assemble clear, articulate messaging swiftly and effectively? How will you ensure that your messaging provides the right information to the right audience at the right time? You should have detailed answers to these questions before any potential emergency arises.

2 – Spokesperson Identification and Media Training

In times of crisis, your chief executive should be the key spokesperson. The company’s reputation relies on them. This individual should collaborate with the public relations team to ensure thoughtful and consistent messaging. Equally important is ensuring that executives approved for media interaction receive sufficient media training and updates on the crisis at hand and any essential industry, legal, or other stipulations. You can achieve this through annual training sessions.

3 – Time-Sensitive Response

In today’s world, the opportunity window to fully control the message is extremely narrow. Almost anyone can access anything at any time with a button’s press. You need to quickly assess the “5 W’s” – who, what, when, where, and why – ensuring all bases are covered promptly. Swift, accurate, and ethical action prevents external narratives from gaining traction.

4 – Crisis “Triage”

Crises vary in severity. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the Orlando crane collapse resulted in “close to a dozen” people evaluated by emergency responders, with only one requiring hospital treatment. But what if multiple casualties had resulted from the incident? You need to evaluate which issues require the most attention and act accordingly.

5 – Utilizing Social Media

In a crisis, social media can intensify your company’s noise. However, it can also serve as a direct messaging tool to your followers, bypassing traditional media filters.

Closing Tips

Acting preemptively can not only protect your reputation from crisis damage, but it can also prevent crises before they happen. If they do occur, remember the Page Principles from the Arthur W. Page Society, a national association of chief communications officers:

● Tell the truth
● Prove it with action
● Listen to stakeholders
● Manage for tomorrow
● Conduct public relations as if the whole enterprise depends on it
● Realize an enterprise’s true character is expressed by its people
● Remain calm, patient and good-humored