The Institute for Crisis Management has helped people lead before, during and after a crisis for more than 25 years.
Following are examples of the kinds of crises that ICM provides frequent support and counsel for:
Credit Union ATM Service Down on Black Friday
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, ICM delivered the first draft of a new Crisis Communications Plan to a regional Credit Union. On Friday after Thanksgiving, the biggest Christmas shopping day of the year, the vendor computer that controls the Credit Union’s ATM service AND member debit cards crashed. Shoppers could not get cash out of ATM’s and stores could not get approval on debit card purchases.
The Crisis Plan included the designated Crisis Team members and all their phone numbers and contact details. The management team was able to reach as many people as possible and activated a customer service telephone line that operated throughout the day Friday and Saturday. Full ATM and debit card service was finally restored on Monday.
The Credit Union was able to mobilize its resources and respond to consumer calls and complaints and minimized the long-term damage such a failure could have inflicted.
Telecommunications- Vandalism that Killed a Child
An international telecommunication company had contracted ICM to help them prepare their first-ever Crisis Communications plan less than a year before an incident that put it to the test.
A 9-year-old girl left school on a Friday afternoon in Lima, Peru and walked to a corner phone booth. Her family was very poor and did not have a phone at home. She stepped into the booth and touched the frame and was electrocuted. The president of the Lima telephone subsidiary of the International Telecommunications company called the US headquarters and ICM was conference called in to the discussion.
The plan was activated, which included contacting ICM for counsel and advice.
The local authorities put the company on notice that they were suspected of operating a defective phone booth. We recommended an immediate aggressive public response and the company complied. Before the evening was over, the local authorities notified the company the booth had been vandalized and it was the theft of aluminum panels and wiring that caused the electrocution.
The company proactively notified the Lima newspapers they had dispatched inspectors to check every phone booth in the city and they would work around the clock until all had been declared safe. The company also contacted the family of the victim and offered financial assistance. Later the company offered to put a phone inside the school building so students and teachers would have a safe place to use a public phone.
Manufacturing Recall in the “Heat” of the Moment
In October (a couple of years ago) ICM was called in by a company that manufactures blower-motors for home heating furnaces. The company sells the blower motor component to about a dozen furnace makers. As the home heating season was fast approaching, the company discovered that a vendor had substituted a rubber gasket that did not meet their specifications, and those defective gaskets had been used in half-a-million blower motors that had been shipped throughout the summer, built into furnaces sold and installed in the late summer and early fall.
We developed a “contact” strategy for the company to take to its customers, the dozen furnace makers, and a letter for the furnace makers to use to notify their distributors and a letter for the furnace makers to provide to their distributors to use to notify their retailers and installers, and a notice for the retailers and installers to use to notify the end customers that their blower motor would fail and the company would make it good.
We also prepared the company for any media inquiries that might result, and prepared the plant manager to explain to the local newspaper in the community where the blower motors were made, to explain while the plant was working overtime around the clock to manufacture a half-million replacement blower motors, while continuing to meet the demand for original orders.
Fast Food Outlet Employees Attempted Robbery
Two employees of a fast food chain rode a bus for more than an hour with a group of senior citizens en route to a neighboring state where legal casinos were waiting to take their money.
After visiting with their fellow passengers for nearly an hour, the two young men pulled on ski masks, pulled out a gun and hijacked the bus and ordered the passengers to put their money and valuables in a bag. In the back of the bus, a little old lady had a cell phone in her purse and she called 9-1-1 and whispered a call for help. A few minutes later police surrounded the bus and captured “dumb and dumber.”
The fast food restaurant was concerned the local media might try to connect the two robbers back to the restaurant where they worked part-time. ICM helped prepare a standby statement and a strategy for openly and candidly dealing with the situation. One TV crew showed up at the restaurant and after a carefully prepared response from the store manager the media basically ignored the fast food outlet connection.
“20/20″ Investigative Report and the Interview that Backfired
A national service company was the target of an ABC 20/20 “secret shopper” investigation. The service/product offered by this company was purchased at four outlets in different parts of the country and then sent to a so-called independent testing lab to determine the quality of the product.
20/20 producers called the company and asked for an interview/response to the lab’s findings that two of the products were improperly made. Upon the advice of another public relations firm, the client agreed to the interview, but prepared the spokesperson to avoid answering the anticipated questions. After the interview was taped, ICM was called in to help the company minimize the damage that had already been inflicted by its own decisions and spokesperson.
A carefully crafted letter of “clarification” was prepared and submitted to explain what the spokesperson had really meant to say. The company CEO was dissuaded from threatening to file a lawsuit against ABC News. The company wanted to try to intimidate 20/20 from doing a hard-hitting story.
The story aired and it was not pretty but nothing as bad as it could have been.
Musical Instrument Retail Scam
A regional music chain store called ICM for help when a salesman was arrested by local police and the Secret Service and accused of selling instruments to elderly customers and then making the payments for them, because he sold them musical instruments they couldn’t afford. Then to help pay for the instruments he sold, he told customers his company was about to “go public” and if they would give him their money he would invest it for them.
The local newspaper and TV stations initially played the story with the company as much a victim as the customers. But later, the newspaper took the approach that the company was “taking advantage” of senior citizens. We prepared a series of employee and customer communications, prepared the company’s attorney for a lengthy and detailed newspaper interview, and helped draft letters and notices to victims.
Not-for-Profit Management Ignores Advice
A not-for-profit youth organization in a Midwestern community was running a summer camp and on the last day of a week-long camp a group of young girls told a counselor that another female counselor had “touched” them. The executive director was out of town. The camp director put the suspect counselor on a bus headed to New York City, then interviewed the girls and waited several hours before notifying parents and police.
The agency’s PR company of record called us in after the fact, to debrief and make recommendations on how the agency should have handled the situation. Individual interviews should have been used, but the executive director would not allow it. The debriefing had to be done as a group exercise with her attendance. In spite of the fact no one wanted to talk in front of her, we were able to determine a number of things that could be improved and made recommendations.
Embezzler Arrested, Potential Donor Loss Mitigated
A local mental health agency had a business manager who had embezzled more than $55,000 from the not-for-profit organization over a five-year period. Local police and Secret Service investigated and charged her with embezzlement.
We helped the agency prepare a plan to notify key contributors and United Way, its own staff and clients, when the arrest was imminent, and helped prepare a standby statement for media inquiries when the arrest warrant was served.
Media coverage was minimal and no contributors withdrew their support.
Whistle Blower Settlement and the Government Press Release
A small company service provider with contracts with 24 regional Veterans Administration Hospitals had fired an employee for “cause” and sometime later she began filing federal “whistle blower” complaints with each of the hospitals and when they did not take her complaint seriously, she began filing complaints with U.S. Attorneys around the country.
One took her case and began negotiations with the company for a settlement. The company provided excellent service to the VA patients, at a very good price, but had ignored an outdated “procedure” and was technically not in compliance with their contracts. And after nearly two years of negotiations with U.S. Attorney, reached a settlement of more than $1million.
Their concern about negative media attention grew out of the insistence of the U.S. Attorney to issue a nationwide news release about his “victory.” ICM was hired to help prepare the company for a feared media “onslaught” but our greater concern was for reassuring employees, partners and financial sources that the company was sound and this settlement was not going to put the company out of business. An appropriate communication strategy was developed and executed and the company continued to prosper and continued to grow its business ties to the Veterans Administration Hospital system.
False Story About Dead Child Goes Viral
An e-mail story began to spread “warning” mothers about the danger of Resolve Carpet Cleaner. The claim – a mother was cleaning carpet in her home when she stepped away, leaving a bottle of Resolve Carpet cleaner within reach of her toddler. The child drank some of the cleaner and died a short time later in a hospital.
The e-mail was tracked back to the original writer, who said she didn’t have any first-hand knowledge, but had heard the story from a friend. She felt compelled to warn other mothers.
Legal contacted all the hospitals in the community where the story originated. Even with limits imposed by HIPAA, each hospital was able to confirm there had been no deaths under similar circumstances and in the time-frame involved. A double check with the coroner’s office confirmed there was no record of such a death in a wide time frame.
A standby statement was prepared. There were no media inquiries and the e-mail faded away.