Some Crises are Bigger than Others, but All Need a Plan
If you think your days as a franchise operator are filled with one crisis after another, consider Mark Forseth, who heads Marriott International’s crisis readiness and response efforts.
“When you think of assessing risk, our business has it in spades,” he said on a panel about communicating during a crisis, at the American Bar Association Forum on Franchising in October. And he ticked off some examples:
After the Boston marathon bombing this spring, “we put our hotels on lockdown before the police did,” he said.
When Superstorm Sandy hit last fall, their Marriott Marquis in Manhattan became home to hundreds of refugees. “We were so happy they decided to cancel the New York marathon, because we were already at 110 percent capacity,” he said.
After the Islamabad Marriott was bombed in 2008, as depicted in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” they rebuilt the hotel with upgraded security features.
And if a celebrity slips and falls in one of their hotels, it will become an instant story. “Every customer is now a news reporter. It’s changed so much,” he said. “This stuff is a constant, constant moving target.”
Marriott gives a wallet card to all of its employees and franchisees, with information about whom each person is supposed to call, and what each person is supposed to do. It has a public relations crisis number they can call 24 hours a day.
He detailed other best practices, as did panelist Beth LaBreche, a public relations guru with Gage, the Minneapolis marketing firm. She recommends every company do a risk assessment that goes like this:
List the potential scenarios that could happen to your brand, rank them in order of potential severity, and list all the differenct audiences for each one. Then list the channels that best reach those audiences. Then determine who speaks to whom.
“A crisis is going to happen to your system,” said Leslie Curran, a partner with Plave Koch who moderated the panel, “and the question is how will you respond?"