Comms chiefs face annual crisis, reveals WS survey

Almost two thirds of communications directors are forced to embark on crisis communications campaigns every year, a survey from Weber Shandwick has revealed.

The poll of more than 200 UK communications directors revealed that 42 per cent of the crisis comms scenarios resulted from announcements from the companies involved themselves, as opposed to 56 per cent that originated in the media.

WS corporate MD Tessa Curtis played down the role companies' own announcements played in sparking crises for their comms teams: 'We would look at it the other way. The majority said crisis scenarios arose from stories in the media, meaning they had to put together their reaction to those at short notice.'

Curtis added that changes in the way the media operate had made it more difficult for firms to plan for such eventualities: 'The change in the media and the increasing rapidity with which stories break and spread around the world is having a huge impact on crisis planning.'

The survey, conducted by WS's research arm SWR Worldwide, showed that 18 per cent of firms had no warning as the issue broke, with only 39 per cent having more than 24 hours preparation for their campaign, despite 56 per cent having a formal early warning system for crises in place.

The survey also showed that 71 per cent felt scenario planning would aid staff in a crisis and 39 per cent believing a better understanding of stakeholder perspectives would be useful.

Curtis said that, for many, effective planning of crisis scenarios would aid their reactions: 'What does come across is the need to be well prepared. When asked what would help their crisis planning, all of the things that were cited were to do with advance preparation and early planning.

'It is a clear signal that while many companies have crisis plans in place, most want to improve them,' she added.

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