Reputation on the rocks
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In the day and age of social media and smartphones, good crisis management can save lives, limit damage to the environment, reduce the overall cost of the response, and protect the reputation of shipping companies.
Speed of social media
The shipping industry does not often attract significant or widespread public or media interest. However when a high profile incident occurs, wide spread interest follows and the images and video tend to appear within minutes on Twitter and YouTube. Journalists, bystanders, even seafarers have the ability to capture footage on the spot.
A report conducted by law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP in 2013, showed how fast and how damaging social media can be.
The findings reveal how the ever-increasing popularity of social media has accelerated the speed at which news is distributed. In today's 24/7 multiplatform media environment, a negative story can go around the world in minutes. Yet despite this dramatic shift in the media landscape only one in ten companies in the Freshfields study were adequately prepared to deal with an emergency.
Infographics from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer llp (2013) Containing a crisis: Dealing with corporate disasters in the digital age
A well run emergency response begins far before any incident has occurred, implementation of procedures and training is paramount to an effective incident response.
If things go pear shaped, remember the core priorities of the response:
Media response - No comment is a comment. No can mean yes!
When making statements to the public or news outlets it is important to only report the facts, maintain honesty & balance, dismiss rumour and speculation, defend reputation, and be mindful of any victim's relatives.
If your shipping company responds and manages a crisis well, it can come out of the incident with a better reputation than before.
Of course, a shipping company does not go into such a crisis alone. A co-ordinated team effort with the P&I Club, H&M, lawyers, and experts provides the recipe for a successful crisis management.