07 Nov

Crisis Management Communications blog

The past few years have shown that a crisis can happen at any point. Whether it’s a fatality, a sickness outbreak, an act of terrorism or a natural disaster, travel organisations of any size can be affected by a crisis, and an immediate response is required. Taking all of this into consideration, on Monday 28 October ABTA hosted its first Crisis Management Communications seminar.  Delegates from across the travel industry were given the opportunity to ensure that, if a crisis occurs, they have an effective strategy in place to manage the media and to keep key stakeholders up to date.

Victoria Bacon, ABTA’s Director of Brand and Business Development moderated the event and introduced the first session which outlined the role of the PR team in a crisis, the rise of citizen journalism and how ABTA can help.

Rachel O’Reilly, Kuoni’s Head of Communications spoke next providing three case studies demonstrating the practicalities of dealing with a crisis. A common theme throughout was the importance of teamwork, trust, building relationships with the media and the need for the crisis communications team to have a 24-hour rota.

Alun James, UK CEO and Managing Director of Four Consulting prepared delegates for their workshop session by explaining the best ways to prepare your spokesperson to talk to the media. He highlighted the need for clarity, the importance of identifying and selecting the right spokesperson for the job and shared some tricks of the trade. Delegates learnt to, ‘never drop their guard’ and that things said are never, ‘off the record’.

Later on Debbie Hindle, Managing Director of Four Travel discussed social media and Nick Thomas, Risk Consultancy Manager from Securewest talked about post-incident reputation management. In a session led by journalist Gill Williams and ABTA’s PR and Campaigns Manager Daisy Parker, delegates were tested on their skills as spokespeople by preparing holding statements and questions and interviewing each other in front of the group.

To finish the seminar, delegates were given the opportunity to ask the experts their own questions. They were keen to hear about how companies can manage and allocate resources, in particular for their social media channels, during a crisis, and how to manage communications on very sensitive matters such as family bereavements.

Feedback from the event has been very positive with attendees commenting on the interesting and thought provoking content.

Debbie Hindle, Managing Director of Four Travel, who headline-sponsored said:

"The theme I took most strongly from today's session was the need for humanity and authenticity in crisis communication. Rachel O Reilly advised us that she prefers statements to be quotes which also show individual human warmth. Our other expert speakers spoke convincingly of the communication issues in a fast moving world. My colleague Alun James explained that being prepared should not mean being over rehearsed. But good preparation will come across as genuine care for anyone involved in a crisis. In the social session I led we discussed the importance of communicating socially to ensure an organisation speaks clearly to all its audiences wherever they want information.”

If you would like more information on this event or would like to see which other conference and seminars ABTA hosts, please see the events pages on abta.com or email events@abta.co.uk where one of the team will happily provide you with more details.