There exists is a saying: “All good things must come to an end.” Thankfully the reverse is also true…all negative things must come to an end, such as a crisis. However, when the crisis is over, it is not time to swipe your forehead as you exhale “whew” and pat your back for enduring the crisis. No, it is time for imperative strategy building.
The Crisis Management Team (CMT) must continue their work by conducting the all important evaluation process. Evaluation provides an exceptional opportunity to learn and improve the company’s Crisis Management Plan (CMP). The crisis management performance is the main evaluation. This will reveal the quality of the CMP and the CMT’s ability of execution. Was it properly and productively played-out? All aspects of the crisis management performance need to be looked at in order to determine where the strengths and weaknesses lay.
Data collection is imperative in the post crisis arena. This evaluative data is collected from several sources: stakeholder feedback, media coverage, Internet comments, crisis records, and organizational performance measures. This data provides a full picture of the performance shown by the crisis management team.
Next, the data needs to be organized and analyzed. Evaluation can only be used as a tool if it is properly analyzed; precision is the key to useful evaluations. Look at the details. What was done well and what needs improving? It is suggested “using four major crisis variables: crisis type, crisis phases, systems, and stakeholders. These variables divide the evaluation data into small, discernible units.” (Coombs, p.171)
Understanding the impact evaluation helps safeguard the organization from damage. Reputational factors come into play in this step. Three relevant elements should be assessed. (1) Scoring of the company’s pre and post crisis reputation, (2) The brevity of the media and Internet coverage, (3) The stakeholder feedback. Reputational rebound can be elevated by providing the necessary media frames. These tell the organization’s side of the story and are highly effectual in shortening the media’s limelight.
All of these evaluation methods need to be utilized as learning tools. They must be committed to the company’s memory. They need to be properly stored and easy to access in the event of necessary retrieval. The text offers caution: “Organizational memory requires a word of warning – do not become a slave to memory…the memory of past crises is both a blessing and a curse. However, the skilled CMT should be able to overcome the blind spot of information acquisition bias.” (Coombs, p. 179) Follow-up is one of the most important post crisis actions that exist. Keeping stakeholders informed is of the utmost importance, as it will alleviate anxious feelings and will enhance the process of reputation building. Crises will befall every company at one time or another. The way the crisis is handled using the CMP and evaluating the performance at the conclusion of the crisis is beneficial to protecting the brand image and maintaining a loyal consumer base.
An excellent example of the evaluation process post crisis is Rebuilding Confidence In Nuclear Energy Post-Fukushima by Hill+Knowlton in 2012. After tsunami waves rendered the nuclear energy facility in Japan useless, safety concerns and record-high nuclear leaks caused critical threats. This was a crisis of epic proportions and it was taking place a world away. Add to it the communication differences, cultural variation, along with emotional issues and you have a recipe for disaster, or with an expertly executed crisis management plan…opportunity.
The Fukushima evaluation process was carried out with precision and foresight. The crisis management team maintained favorability (reputation); this was evidenced by poll results. “Opinion polls show majority of Americans once again feel reassured on U.S. nuclear safety.” (http://www.prsa.org/SearchResults/Download/6BW-1211C06/0/Rebuilding_Confidence_In_Nuclear_Energy_Post_Fukus)
Independent experts were hired to conduct leader briefings; this was integral to keeping the stakeholders informed. This CMT made their presence where the stakeholders were and transparently answered their questions. A microsite focused on safety was launched further enhancing communication with target audience members’ all the while offering reassurance.
Fukushima’s organization and analysis of the crisis weren’t clearly spelled-out; it would have been helpful to see that to gain a better understanding. Another item absent from the evaluation process was the memory and learning. The evaluation plan highlights its successes, but the fact is procedures need to be put in place to quicken the response time and help safeguard the steps needing to be taken with future crises.
Experts were comparing the catastrophic nature of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility plant to that of Chernobyl. However, with the immediate action and the expertise of NEI and Hill+Knowlton credibility was established and the crisis did not escalate to astronomical proportions. The evaluation is professional and adequately illustrates the benefits of actions taken. It just needs the memory and learning aspect. Clearly stating safeguard solutions would be helpful and would bring the entire event full circle.
I have honestly been blessed beyond measure and have not had to face a full-blown crisis in my life as of yet. We have experienced rough incidents and trying challenges though. One that comes to mind is our faulty plumbing. Quest piping was inferior and caused many homeowners financial burdens with the leaks it caused. So much so that a class action lawsuit was filed. We found out about the case too late to partake.
We had numerous leaks and as a result damage to our home and possessions. My handy husband would crawl underneath our home each time there was a leak and fix it. The problem was the new fitting would eventually cause stress further down the pipe causing additional bursts in different locations. From time to time we would seek an estimate for repiping our whole home. The estimates were in the $5,000.00 range and we just could not manage it. After about the seventh patch in 6 months, my husband put his foot down and said the pipes had to be replaced and be replaced now! He called for a plumber to come assess the situation. After conversing with the plumber my husband came in to give me the damage, $3,700.00 with an immediate 10% down (we had been trying to save for a car for our second daughter and that money would now need to be the down payment for the repiping in stead of the down payment for the car). The remainder of the bill needed to be paid off in 6 months or the interest rate (APR) would jump to 26.9%. I was distraught, as I knew there was no way we would be able to pay off this sizable of a debt that quickly. Well there is one area that God allows you to test him in and that is in the area of money. Luke 6:38 says: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” When I look back on that incident and evaluate the process, I see God’s handiwork over and over. Yes, it was a major setback, not only the money factor but also the car factor. In spite of it all, we continued to be obedient in our tithing and we sacrificed to aggressively throw money at that debt. We had our entire community group continuously pray with us. And as we partnered with God, the impossible became possible. We paid off that debt within the six months and as such incurred no interest. We don’t have to continue wasting money on patches for burst pipes. And, God also helped in providing a car for Savannah on her Baccalaureate day. Our post crisis evaluation keeps our focus upward, a heavenly gaze. We will not turn to the left or the right but will keep our eyes fixed on Him. We will continue to be obedient and to “test” God with our money.
Coombs, W. T. 2012. Ongoing Crisis Communication – Planning, Managing,
and Responding. SAGE Publications Inc., California.
Post crisis evaluation example retrieved from: