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Crisis in a Teapot

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Corporate Communications in times of crisis need to be timely. Rumours spread faster than the truth, because they are usually more exciting. My own experience with a well handled crisis relied on facts and beating the public to the proverbial punch.

In the Spring of 2008, our manager pulled us into a huddle at the start of the work day. We could tell that it was not a “Let’s make this a great day team!” type of huddle. He had something to tell us, and it was serious. He gravely explained to us that a long time employee of the financial institution that we all worked for had been caught embezzling a large amount of money. She had, obviously, been fired and charges had been laid.

An entire communications package had been put together, including quotes from the CEO about the difficulty and sensitivity of the situation. The information was shared from the top down by telephone conferences with the branch managers, followed by early morning huddles like our own. Our daily internal electronic newsletter had links to a special page on our intranet on how to deal with any media calls and to whom these calls should be directed. We were provided with scripting to answer our customers’ questions and to offer them reassurances.

The funds taken were all from internal accounts and 90% of that was covered by insurance. No personal or business deposits were affected and there was no negative impact to our ability to operate or to be profitable. Some high value accounts were contacted by their account managers to assure them that their assets were safe and to let them know that they may be reading about us in the newspapers.

There was actually very little in the media about the fraud. I like to think it is because the truth was put out quickly and in an orderly manner. There was no opportunity for anyone to be caught off guard or unprepared. All the employees were aware and informed and knew what to do and where to find answers. We felt that the people calling the shots trusted us to be able to handle the truth of the situation and we wanted to live up to that trust.

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