Seaports Magazine - Summer 2014 - (Page 23)

» GUEST VIEWPOINT Crisis at the Port: Planning Ahead Makes the Difference By Scott Summerfield and Sheri Benninghoven Principals SAE Communications Y our port is likely well-equipped to handle natural disasters. But these aren't the only situations that we should prepare and train for - in reality, there are significantly more human-caused crises that will grab the media's attention and threaten your port's credibility. We've all seen the stories. Whether it's excessive spending on luxury travel, sexual harassment or embezzlement, the result is frighteningly similar: The port hasn't planned for a "non-traditional" crisis, and its slow response sets the stage for a lasting negative impact. Port crises take a variety of shapes, but all can completely disrupt normal operations, put public officials on defense, and erode long-earned goodwill and confidence. Why does a strategic response matter? Imagine what your stakeholders will think the next time you ask them to support a fee increase or expansion if they believe you've wasted their money and haven't been straightforward. As you face a crisis, it's helpful to follow three important communications principles: * Tell the truth. * Stakeholders have a right to know. * Confidence in the port is essential. Though the principles may seem obvious, think for a moment about all the times you've seen public officials ignore them - and the negative news coverage that results. That alone should be impetus for you to build these ideals into your port's organizational culture. Learn from Others' Mistakes Analysis of agencies that have suffered excessively from crises shows several consistent communications missteps that can easily be avoided by planning ahead. The first step is to identify a team of savvy port leaders who can use the concepts in this article and start the planning process now, before the crisis actually strikes. Assuming the worst won't be easy, but you'll soon have a good feel for the types of crises you may face and can begin crafting policies to deal with whatever comes your way. Understanding the pitfalls suffered by other ports will help you expose weaknesses and develop specific tactics to prepare your organization. Respond quickly and completely - Wishful thinking that the problem will go away if you don't respond is one of the top blunders made by agencies under fire. News coverage today is around-the-clock, and if a reporter unearths a juicy new nugget about your crisis, it will appear online and in social media almost immediately. The media must have 24/7 access to your spokesperson, who in turn must have 24/7 access to executive management and the latest crisis updates. Your response can't solely be reactionary - continually monitor every online, broadcast and social media news source that is covering you, modify your strategy if necessary, and actively get your message out through every available tool. Don't speak unless you're prepared - Port representatives who consent to interviews without thoroughly thinking through their comments, or who speculate about the crisis, often make a bad situation worse. Interviews are tense settings under the best of circumstances, but when the port is under fire, it's impossible to think strategically. Worse, without preparation, multiple port spokespersons can inadvertently provide conflicting information and inject even more controversy. Keep your PIO/spokesperson in the loop - Your spokesperson must have full access to top port decision-makers during the crisis - even in meetings from which they usually may be excluded - so they can understand the nuances of the crisis, offer media relations advice, and be fully informed when they conduct interviews or prepare statements. This is the time to break down the usual reporting relationships and organizational barriers and move into full crisis management mode. Continued on page 24 Wishful thinking that the problem will go away if you don't respond is one of the top blunders made by agencies under fire. News coverage today is around-the-clock, and if a reporter unearths a juicy new nugget about your crisis, it will appear online and in social media almost immediately. SUMMER 2014 * WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM 23 http://WWW.AAPASEAPORTS.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Summer 2014

Aapa Headquarters
From the President’s Desk
In Case of Emergency
Extreme Weather
Plug-Ins Enabled
Partners in Fighting Crime
Her Path Leads to Ports
U.S. Needs New Transportation Law that Improves Quality of Life, Economy
Crisis at the Port: Planning Ahead Makes the Difference
Superstorms and Rising Sea Level Present a New Challenge for Ports
Aapa Port Employee Relief Fund a Helping Hand for Those in Need
Toronto Emergency Departments Hold Joint Ice and Cold Water Training Exercises
New Sonar Solution to Protect Aruba Ports Authority
Preparedness, Resiliency and Responsiveness in Mexico
Cat Islands Restoration Strengthens the Resiliency of Port of Green Bay, Local Environment
Index of Advertisers

Seaports Magazine - Summer 2014

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