Posts Tagged ‘Work’

‘Vigilance’ was an important word this month. Every political figure and journalist used it the week Osama Bin Laden’s death was announced and it cropped up again midmonth when a bomb threat was made against central London.

The Metropolitan Police sealed off areas like Trafalgar Square and the mall near Buckingham Palace, detonated an unusual bag in central London, and used a bomb squad to investigate several suspicious manhole covers and streets.

What?!? Someone forgot to mention these types of activities when we were discussing my transfer.

While watching a Die Hard movie or sitting around with buddies, it’s easy to say how you would handle this situation but those hypothetical, and mostly chauvinistic, plans disappear when you learn of a credible threat. It’s replaced instead by a million different thoughts and ideas.

The first for me was “Holy Sh!t.

It was quickly followed by “Is this real?!” and “I think I’m working late tonight.

Central London is quite large so the odds were on my side but the “Is this for real?” feeling stuck with me for a while as a new list of questions popped into my head. Do I take the tube home like normal or should I try the bus? Will they issue an ‘all clear’ or do we remain vigilant until tomorrow morning? If I stay late, how late should I stay? Is 8 p.m. late enough?

As these questions were passing through my mind, I was caught off guard by my colleagues’ lack of reaction. Was I the only person that received the email? They seemed to be the epitome of “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

In the end, the threat was minimal and nothing more than a slight hiccup from the Metropolitan Police department’s perspective. However, it was a good reminder of the British mentality. ‘Redesigned’ by the Nazi bombings in WWII and shaken by the 7/7 bombings of 2005, London is a strong city with a difficult past.

As someone that grew up rocking the suburbs, my colleagues served as a reminder that there will always be threats close to home and you should keep a watchful eye, but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid of the unknown.


What is a Crisis?

Posted: September 28, 2010 in Professional Insight
Tags: , ,

“We’re in the middle of a crisis situation and I don’t have time to talk.”

Defining can crisis is difficult because a crisis varies for every person, company and industry. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a crisis as an “unstable or crucial time… especially: one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome.” This definition does a nice job of calling out some key elements – instability, timing and undesirable outcomes – but it is broad. I left this definition broad because rarely do two companies, organizations or people undergo they exact same set of circumstances.

For a small business a crisis might mean their website is out of commission for a few days, for a Fortune 500 company this could be an international product recall lasting several months, or for a parent this could be losing their child 4-year-old at the hotel arcade in Disney World.* The first step for each of these situations is to determine whether or not you have a crisis.


I don’t have all the answers on how to handle a crisis but I’ve had an opportunity to work on 8-9 different situations** ranging in severity and duration. As a research savvy guy, I’m normally pulled in during the first step, analyzing and understanding the landscape. Even if you have a crisis communications plan, which hopefully you do, you need to fully grasp the situation before you tweak your action plan or issue a public statement:

  • How many people will this situation affect?
  • What is currently being said or asked by our shareholders (employees, customers / product users, brand advocates, competitors, the media, etc.)?
  • How have similar situations been handled in the past?
  • What is the worst possible outcome of this scenario?

Armed with these answers, it’s possible to determine the scope of your situation, the best message to communicate to your shareholders and the channels you use to share information. These answers also allow you to take a step back, look at the whole picture and develop an informed strategy.

This topic is surrounded by shades of gray and as my friend Crister points out in the comments section, each industry has a different understanding of what constitutes a crisis. I’m hoping to spend more time in the future writing about crisis situations, how to handle them and how various industries define a crisis differently. Let me know if you have specific topics you would like me to explore or if you would like to share some of the lessons you’ve learned from dealing with a crisis.



* This happened to me during a trip to Disney World when I was four. Papa Piehl told me he was walking less than 10 feet away to grab a cup of coffee but I wasn’t exactly listening. Eventually, a hotel employee found me wondering around the hotel restaurant trying to find Mickey and Pluto. After this my parents made me wear an ID bracelet during every family vacation until I was in third grade.

** The majority of the crisis situations I’ve worked on are confidential and I will never disclose or allude to who the client is. My clients trust and respect is of the utmost importance. Moving forward, I will do my best to share with you the processes I’ve learned that can be applied to other clients and businesses.