ANALYSIS: BIG QUESTION; When does an issue become a crisis?

Gill Freshwater Carlsberg-Tetley

Gill Freshwater Carlsberg-Tetley

‘When it threatens the bottom line and the reputation of your company.

But with a thought-through issues management structure in place you can

often nip an issue in the bud before it develops. The Tetley Bitter

widget scare was a crisis situation but we handled it swiftly and made

the best out of it. With ‘alcopops’ we had a clear positioning statement

and spoke openly and confidently from the beginning.’

Chris Woodcock Countrywide Communications

‘This is a brain teaser which is fun to debate but doesn’t solve

anything. It is much more important when working with clients to assess

the risks facing the business which then allows you to put crisis

prevention steps in place. There is no text book turning point but you

can look back and see at what stage the risks start hitting. Sometimes

an issue can bubble away and all you can do is monitor it but if you

fail to recognise risks then you have a crisis.’

Amanda Cryer Cameron Choat & Partners

‘It becomes a crisis if you can’t turn back. I remember the Salmonella

scare, when all hell broke loose. Egg sales were 60 per cent down and

no-one could have predicted it. When an opinion former or public figure

makes a statement which is reported by the media as fact then an issue

becomes a crisis. Then you are responding to the media and the public,

not the issue. It is hard to predict when public figures are going to

stand up and say something.’

Alasdair Frew The Highways Agency

‘The question should be: ‘when does a crisis become an issue?’. When a

town like Newbury is choking on a five-mile queue of traffic, and that

queue is growing longer day by day, then you have a crisis. But it’s

only once a handful of people take to the street to try to stop you

doing something about it that you have an issue.’

Anthony Wreford Consultant

‘It’s when the message just isn’t getting through and even the good

stories have a negative spin. British Gas is a good example. A lot of

situations which companies define as crises are actually quite


Rosemary Brook Brook Wilkinson

‘It is when something goes live and requires immediate and decisive

intervention. Most well-organised companies have systems in place to

spot a change in an issue that calls for action, but some are blind to


The Big Question is edited by Lexie Goddard

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in