Insights · 30th of April, 2024 · 1 minute ·

PEAR: Putting people front and centre of incident management

You’ll see – and hear – the same thing from many businesses: “They’re our most important asset.” We see it when we are speaking to clients. “Oh, that’s definitely what sets us apart from our competitors.” That’s right, it’s people.

Indeed, if we were to steal and rework a famous Jock Stein quote, it could be said “without people, companies are nothing”. And while it might be cliched, and the sort of terminology we want to avoid like the plague, it is true.

That’s why when it comes to responding to a crisis, it’s always People that come first. It pips the other letters of the PEAR acronym (Environment, Asset and Reputation) to the top spot. It’s an accepted way to deal with emergencies, and over the course of four articles, I’m going to take you to the core of PEAR and help you understand why it matters.

As mentioned in the introductory piece, the theory of PEAR is one that should be remembered when organisations are faced with any incident in any sector.

The speed with which you update interested parties on the status of people involved in any incident can make or break a company’s reputation and put the feelings of those that aren’t directly involved at ease. It shows you care.

Whenever personnel are involved in an incident, the immediate reaction from those outwith the situation is to find out their identities. The vast majority want to make sure they are safe, but let’s not kid ourselves, there is a significant swathe of interested parties who just want to know out of sheer nosiness.

And with those involved potentially going through a life-changing experience, it is the responsibility of the organisations they are representing to ensure their privacy is protected.

The key is to quash speculation as swiftly as possible, something that can be done through the issuing of statements vague enough to quell questions but informative enough to put people at ease. The messaging matters.

Remember the citizen journalists? We have been involved in serious situations in the past which have seen stories, images and videos circulating on WhatsApp within a short time of the incident having taken place and no official material having been released.

This can lead to a lot of information – both true and untrue – quickly being in the public domain. And given the nature of events we have been involved in, there has been significant media interest from media across the globe.

While many view the media as a group of people that they should always be suspicious of and avoid speaking to as much as possible, I disagree. Not all journalists are like you see on TV and in movies. As a former journalist myself, it is infuriating to see many are portrayed on-screen, and don’t get me started on the quality of the newspaper headlines!

There has to be a healthy respect between both parties, we are, after all, just doing our jobs. The relationships companies have in “peacetime” with media can help in a time of crisis.

Being able to work with those connections and guide them in the right direction and ensure those involved are protected from any unwanted intrusion. For example, in the past we have received multiple inquiries from different journalists suggesting they knew the name of people at the centre of incidents.

While we wouldn’t volunteer the identity of those concerned, we have proactively contacted reporters to confirm who was NOT involved, thus protecting the identity – and rights – of everyone whose name has been mentioned, regardless of whether they were involved or not.

If we hadn’t taken such an approach, the likelihood of rumoured names appearing in-print or online was significant, and being able to resurrect the situation from there would have been difficult.

Because once something is out there, it becomes the accepted truth, so filling the information vacuum, even by not actually giving the media anything to publish, can be beneficial.

Ultimately, if you don’t put your voice out there, the space will be filled by someone else. And then you’re on the back foot and at risk of losing the trust of your most important asset.

Relationships and the messaging matter in a crisis. But above all else, it’s people that matter most.

Insights · 30th of April, 2024 · 1 minute ·