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Good News, Bad News on the Crisis Communications Front in 2015

4 min read
April 11, 2016

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There was some good news on the crisis communications front last year according to The Institute for Crisis Management (ICM), which just released its annual report for 2015. It found crisis stories in the news decreased by six percent from the previous year. Unfortunately, those crises in the news were no less alarming or damaging to the companies impacted than in recent years.

The annual report, a compilation of news, trends and the identification of industries most prone to a crisis, identified more than 212,115 crisis news stories last year, down from 223,000 in 2014.

The top 10 most crisis-prone industries in 2015 were:

  • Food
  • Energy
  • Automotive manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Banking, insurance and financial services
  • Education
  • Government agencies
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Health care
  • Retail

Cyber-crime and data breaches continued to challenge hundreds of organizations of all shapes and sizes, including such well-known companies as Hyatt, Jeep, T-Mobile and Scottrade.

Other large companies on the wrong side of the news included:

  • FedEx – Indicted for allegedly shipping illegal prescription drugs from two online pharmacies, with money laundering charges later added.
  • General Motors – Admitted to criminal wrongdoing and paid a $900 million fine in the mishandling of a defective ignition switch linked to more than 100 deaths.
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. – Forced to deal with criminal charges stemming from several recalls related to foodborne illness that sickened hundreds, closed stores and sent the company’s stock tumbling.
  • Subway – Long-time Subway pitchman Jared Fogle was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison after accepting a plea deal on charges he had sex with minors, and distributed and received child pornography; and Fred DeLuca, the company’s co-founder, died, two years after being diagnosed with leukemia

Workplace violence, white-collar crime, product defects, labor disputes, and executive dismissals and firings were some of the other major categories for crises in 2015.

According to the report, slightly more than three out of every four crises (77.7 percent) were the sudden type – such as natural disasters or workplace violence – with a little less than one of four (22.3 percent) considered “smoldering,” a situation that starts out small, thus providing an organization with an opportunity to fix it before it gets out of control and becomes public.

The 2015 report is another reminder bad things happen to good companies. Sooner or later most businesses – even the most successful and well-run organizations – will encounter a crisis. Some may be severe, widespread and a threat to the organization’s very existence. Others may be contained within a community or region, putting the company’s local reputation at relationships at risk.

The PR team at Martin Davison Public Relations has extensive experience in crisis communications and issues management, having provided our clients with confidential planning and counsel associated with a variety of situations including employee and patient fatalities, management issues, layoffs and corporate downsizings, mergers and acquisitions, and labor disputes.

With a written crisis plan in place, an effective spokesperson, and a do-the-right-thing philosophy, virtually any situation can be dealt with and the damage minimized.

If your organization is in need of assistance with reputation management, crisis communications planning or media training please contact me at dshaner@martingroupmarketing.com or 716.242.7476.

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