Master of Disaster

In a recent interview with Biz News, crisis communications expert Alan Hilburg offered tips for multinational companies facing media attention for scandal and corruption, such as the ones facing KPMG and others.

Hilburg, renowned especially for his role in Johnson and Johnson’s response in the Tylenol scandal of 1982, is credited as the first communications expert to align marketing and communications with litigation, and has defended client brands and reputations in 107 trials.

“I would say that crisis management Rule 101 is that you’ll rarely be judged by what caused the crisis. You’ll always be judged by how you respond to it,” Hilburg told Biz News. “Making a business decision is one thing, but hiding or covering up a bad decision is something much more egregious.”

Hilburg identified three areas where the South African based multinationals should focus their efforts.

Character: “Your character matters. If someone in the organisation made decisions that were inconsistent with values, there’s no excuse for keeping that person around.

Crisis Plan: “I think it’s a good time to re-examine their crisis plan. Their crisis plan really responds to the scope and scale of the crisis.”

Culture: “Most importantly, it’s essential that when your company goes through this, we always advise our global clients to do a cultural audit,” says Hilburg. “Make sure that everyone in every office everywhere in the world, understands what the values are, how to behaviourise those values, and the penalty for not doing that.”