Andrew Griffin: ‘Crisis management is all about simplicity and flexibility’

About the author

Richard Bailey FCIPR MPRCA is editor of PR Academy's PR Place Insights. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.

Richard Bailey in conversation with Andrew Griffin
Richard Bailey in conversation with Andrew Griffin

Andrew Griffin has built a career in crisis management and crisis communication including the twelve years he spent at the helm of specialist firm Regester Larkin (which became part of Deloitte) and as the author of Crisis, Issues and Reputation Management

He’s the guest speaker at PR Academy’s Crisis Communication Hub free webinar on 2 December, and I spoke to him to learn some lessons from his unrivalled experience in this field. He set up The Griffin Consultancy just over a year ago having left Deloitte.

 

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‘I am now doing what I love doing: crisis and issues and management’, he tells me. ‘My time is divided roughly half and half between helping organisations prepare and plan for crises; and helping them respond to live issues and crises.’

‘I run crisis management exercises, which could be specifically for the communication function or could be broader. When I joined Regester Larkin back in 2001 it was very much a crisis communication consultancy. Mike Regester had had a PR job in the oil industry and Judy Larkin had experience in issues management. We took Regester Larkin – and I think our clients – on a bit of a journey.

Ultimately, crisis management is about more than communication. It brings many functions, geographies and businesses together.

‘So full crisis management exercises should be the same: they could involve, for example, quality and tech people, legal, finance and other functions as well as the senior management team and sometimes the board.

‘In the twelve years I was running Regester Larkin we moved it very much from being seen as a comms outfit to being a crisis management and crisis communication consultancy – which had as much in common with the management consultancies as it did with the Edelmans and the Hill & Knowltons, for example. We saw ourselves in the middle of a Venn diagram at the crossover between comms advice and management consulting.

‘Of course, communications professionals remain central to a crisis response, not only in communicating key decisions and actions to external audiences but also to inform those actions by advising on how they would seem to the outside world, and how reputationally damaging or beneficial certain courses of action could be.’

‘What I’m doing now is getting back to basics. What clients really like is flexible and fast advice. Something that might be appropriate for a massive global organisation is just not going to be appropriate for a smaller organisation with one or two offices – or a charity for example.’

‘I’m giving clients of all shapes and sizes this simplicity and flexibility which is what crisis management is all about.

For a while crisis management became this massive, industrial-scale operation whereas I’ve always thought the simpler the better. You should be freeing people up and enabling them to manage the problem rather than enforcing a straightjacket of process that limits their movement with too much complexity and too many rules.

‘I had studied politics and political science – and got into lobbying and public affairs in the 1990s. I was interested in politics but was never going to trouble the green benches. What I was most interested in was issues management and a recruiter put me in touch with Regester Larkin.’

Griffin joined in 2001 and was running the firm from 2004 until its acquisition by Deloitte. This gives him a perspective on what’s changed in crisis management in the past twenty years.

‘In-house skills and expertise are now much stronger now than they were. With the pandemic, everyone has gained experience of an issue or crisis that has required a flexible response. We’re now dealing with clients who are pretty clued up whereas 20 years ago crisis management and crisis communication were immature disciplines. But clients still need sounding boards and support in reporting up to the senior management team – you’re sometimes the teller of truths or the deliverer of hard messages.’

Andrew Griffin Crisis Comms Webinar

Register for webinar

Crisis communication expert, Andrew Griffin, will explore why finding the balance between science and emotion, between hard facts and compelling stories is becoming harder than ever in crisis communication.

When:  2nd December 2021 – from 1-2pm (GMT).

This webinar is free, but only a few spaces remain, so secure your space today!