As a worker stared at his severed leg, what happens next may surprise you
Friday, September 18th, 2015
Being caught unaware can happen to any business, it’s how you handle the issue that is important
AS THE thick smoke drifted across the blast scene, an ashen-faced worker lay with his back against the wall, clutching his thigh and gazing uncomprehendingly at his severed lower leg lying several feet away in a pool of blood.
Nearby wide-eyed colleagues muttered to themselves while milling around in an abject state of shock. The normal work day rhythm of a drinks plant in rural Scotland had just been punctured by a series of shrill and screaming sirens.
Among the throngs of panicky workers being directed toward muster points, it was abundantly clear that ‘normal’ was no longer the order of the day.
This was the scene which greeted our director Raymond Notarangelo, pictured right, when he visited one of the Scottish sites of a major player in the Scottish drinks industry.
Unlike many of the staff caught up in events, Raymond was lucky enough to know that it was a carefully-staged exercise to test the company’s Incident Response plan and he was part of the expert training team assembled to assess how the business and its staff responded.
This was no dreary table top exercise – rather a scarily realistic and lifelike drama. The scene which greeted unaware first aiders would have shocked even hardened 999 crews, according to a former Firemaster who was also part of the panel.
The man with the severed leg was actually an amputee war veteran playing a convincing role, while the workers in shock were also played by actors.
Thankfully this realistic mock up saw the drinks company and its staff manage the lifelike crisis with aplomb. Key people stepped up, knew their place in the crisis response and used previous advice and training to react accordingly – from first aiders being called to treat casualties, to getting staff to proper muster points, sealing off the site, deciding whether to shut down the entire operation.
However it serves as a reminder of just how fragile the appearance of business normality can be. There you are, noodling along nicely, taking care of business and generally in a good place when …. WHAMMO! The wheels come off.
Your workers are harmed in a freak accident. Your customers are put at risk by an aberration in one of your products. Someone on your senior team suffers an inexplicable glitch and says something that could damage your brand for months or years to come.
The fact those events were freak, abberant or inexplicable isn’t going to help you or your business in the media storm that will follow.
Being caught unawares can happen to any business – however a measure of the best businesses is how well they have drilled to cope with the unexpected.
Yes, unplanned and unwanted events usually develop into crises exactly because they can’t be predicted and come out of the left field. But that doesn’t mean you’re totally powerless to influence what happens in the aftermath. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Many business have considered crisis plans which lay out clear lines of action, responsibility and communication for those times when normal events veer off into extreme scenarios.
Sadly, many of those crisis plans are sitting on shelves gathering dust. Unread, misunderstood and generally neglected. Effectively worth less than the paper they are printed on.
If you are one of the handful of super smart businesses which regularly tests your Incident Response plan, now’s the time to enjoy a warm glow of satisfaction. If not, be sure to read on. We might just be able to help make sure your business recovers should it ever fall victim to adverse events thanks to the fickle finger of fate.
Raymond, who was advising on the role the media would play in such unfolding events, including playing the part of a mock STV reporter who turned up at the gates and tried to slip through while staff were distracted. As well as the staff on the ground, our role was to also test the media response of the drink company’s communication team at HQ.
While this was a one day exercise, Raymond and the expert public relations team at Holyrood PR know only too well that in a crisis, media blowback can last for days or even weeks.
That’s why it pays to have real crisis communication experts on your side. Our PR expertise has helped clients come through a huge range of media storms large and small, from huge water contamination scares, major health crises affecting care homes and nurseries, businesses plagued by disgruntled ex-staff, firms which have been caught in the crossfire of legal disputes and many, many more.
Of course public relations isn’t only for the bad times. Our main job is to deliver regular positive stories about our clients to the widest possible audience, using words picture and video and reaching across print, online and on air.
Does your business need a crisis management plan?
If you’d like to find out how you can get proactive PR success from experts who can also save your reputation at times of crisis, please get in touch. You can contact us on 0131 561 2244, or contact us by taking a few seconds to complete the form below – we’ll get straight back to you.
Raymond Notarangelo, co-founded Scottish PR agency, Holyrood PR after spotting a gap for colourful and innovative public relations in Edinburgh. He now leads a team providing media relations, social media, video, photography, brand newsrooms, crisis communication and media relations.View Raymond's Profile
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