Public Relations Nowadays: Lack of knowledge about Crisis Communication
By Takhta Pandu Padmanegara
Graduated from President University
Majoring in Public Relations
If we ask to each company, from the huge scale company until the small scale, we will find that only several companies or organization that realize about crisis communication. Subsequently there are only a few companies that have a crisis communication plan. Some companies claim that they have their own crisis management plan; therefore they don’t need a crisis communication plan (CCP).
Since I took the crisis communication subject, one of the most important public relations core subject, I, my friends, colleagues, lecturers, realize that there’s a lack of knowledge and understanding about crisis communication for PR practitioners in Indonesia. Previously, I and my classmates had projects about “The important of crisis communication plan in modern organization.” We should make a real CCP in one of company in Indonesia. We’re divided into small groups to make the process effectively and efficiently. Each group should choose one company to be the object of the project.
After all students analyzed the condition of some huge companies in Indonesia, we found that many, a lot of companies do not have a crisis communication plan, although they said that they have a crisis management plan, it’s just a standard operating procedure about how to do or operate the machine, safety procedure, etc. They claimed that it wasn’t necessary to have the plan. The PR of the companies assumed that the plan would not be useful for the company. Too bad and too sad to hear that!
At the beginning, we proposed to conduct our project in a company that we chose. All groups chose different business area in order to increase the scale of the project. There was a group that chose one of the biggest steel companies in Indonesia, Hospital, Global Franchise Restaurant, a mining company, etc. Our group chose a huge company group that manages property, industrial park, mining, and other businesses services in Indonesia.
After a month we conducted a research in the company, we found that a lot of areas that had possibility of crisis that will lead to big losses, not only the image of the company but also the losses of their business. The historical data also proved that the crisis already happened for years, and they still didn’t aware. Fortunately, the PR manager, and all the employees were so open and help us to find more information.
As for your information there’s a group that found a potential crisis hole in the company, then the PR, and communication department covered it then ask the group to stop the research. My friend said that there’s something bad that company did, but the company didn’t fix it, they just covered it from public. This kind of company is planting their own suicide crisis bomb to end their business. It’s just a matter of time.
Soon after we collected information, facts, and doing research, we consult with each key person of the department to evaluate the problem and to solve it in order to create effective procedure for CCP. At the end of the project period we had successfully finished the CCP including the procedure, media relations, government relations, and the way to get back into the right track of business. The PR manager that handling a lot of tenants was very satisfies and approved that the lack knowledge is not only came from the practitioners but also from the management.
Based on the story, the Public Relations practitioner, communication officer, or even the executive still do not know about the crisis communication, its plan, and how to handle the crisis itself. Now, all companies in Indonesia are going to face a difficult situation as the impact of global crisis next year, 2009. Are they prepared? Some of companies (perhaps) are well prepared, and some of them aren’t but all of them are supposed to ready in facing the worst condition.
“Why, do you know something I don’t know?”
There’s a manager asked me about that.
I asked “Have your company conduct a research about something in your company?”
Then he answered “Yes, but they said everything is running well. All are OK! So I assumed the company is in good condition.”
I replied “Well, you should see from different view, and let someone in different department or even you can hire the expert or outsourcing company to check the real condition. Or perhaps you can learn from the previous crisis to prevent the next crisis.”
There’s a lot of international and local example for crisis communication study, and how they bankrupt or survive from its crisis (See columbine shootings story, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Alaska and causing one of the worst environmental disasters in history, The toxic of Union Carbide Bhopal Pesticide Plant, the fall of Enron and Arthur Andersen, the classic Tylenol cyanide poisoning case etc).
With the increasing number of PR practitioners, PR consultant, and PR students nowadays, there’s an agenda to enhance the quality of PR in Indonesia. “Are we, as PR practitioners, really know and understand about communication and PR studies including its practices?” It isn’t enough to label us as PR practitioner or expert if we still don’t know what actually the PR is. Therefore, the discussion, seminar, research, study, about PR or even the journal of PR and communication studies should be conducted persistently in order to develop the quality of PR practitioners in Indonesia.
At last but not least, I almost forget to ask,
“Does your company has a crisis communication plan?”
Bogor, December 13, 2008
Cheers with no beers,