Perspectives on crisis communication

4. Perspectives from a high risk industry

About the author

Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy. Her special areas of interest are internal communication, change management and project communication. MSc, Dip CAM, MCIPR

Adelaide Arthur
Adelaide Arthur

Adelaide Arthur works in the mining industry in Ghana. She comes to public relations from a background is in journalism. Adelaide is also a volunteer with the CIPR Crisis Communication Network. 

What motivated you to do the CIPR crisis communication diploma? 

I found the crisis communication topic interesting and wanted to know more about various crisis comms strategies, how to apply them for better outcomes, as well as understand the theories underpinning these strategies.  

What sort of potential issues and crisis communication situations does your organisation face? 

In a broader sense, the mining industry in Ghana faces various internal and external threats to their license to operate. Potential crises can arise from their mining practices, safety, how they relate with the communities within which they operate, as well as negative rhetoric by anti-mining campaigners.

Internally, poor organisational culture can fuel a potential crisis. If any of these issues causes a crisis, depending on the type of crisis, the company’s culpability and crisis history, the communication strategy would involve communicating mainly with regulators, victims and their families, community members, employees and shareholders.

Therefore, the key to averting a potential crisis would be to commit to transparency and open dialogue, responsible mining practices, ESG, respectful and inclusive workplace, as well as creating and sharing value with stakeholders.    

Did your perspective on issues and crisis communication change after doing the course?  

Absolutely. I understood the fact that crisis communication wasn’t just about pushing out info when a crisis hits. It is strategic, and communication professionals should be deliberate about the strategy to use, what to say, how and when to say it, what channels are appropriate, the frequency and so on.  

What for you do you think were the main take aways from the course? 

The main takeaways for me are understanding the different types of crises that can hit an organisation, their possible impact on reputation and how to prepare adequately for the crisis to minimise the impact. You hear about some of these techniques from PR and crisis communication specialists; however, learning and understanding the research and theories backing best practice rank supreme.  Also, the course structure encouraged critical and strategic thinking as there were relevant real-life and fictional crisis scenarios and case studies to work on, as well as vast resources and reading list. 

What advice would you give to a practitioner who is trying to get the organisation to think about crisis comms planning? 

It would be helpful to highlight the crisis threats and risk to reputation and how these can impact the organisation’s bottom line. Also, be clear about how an effective crisis communication plan can help the company to prevent or mitigate reputational damage, as well as recover by bolstering and rebuilding trust. 

With a growth mindset, the learning continues; it never has to end. I’m always on the look-out for opportunities to broaden my knowledge and sharpen my skills, and build a strong professional network.

You went on to become chartered – what prompted that? 

I recognise that the chartership adds credibility to my practice and places me within a respectable community of PR and communication professionals. Being chartered gives me an edge and most importantly, tells clients, recruiters and employers that I’m guided by the profession’s code of ethics and committed to continuous professional development.  

Did the crisis diploma or other professional qualification help with the chartership assessment. 

Lessons from the course came in handy during discussions, as it enabled me to make compelling arguments and submissions, which were backed by key communication theories, models and best practice. I remember using Andrew Griffith’s scenario planning model, which I had learnt from the course, to support my submission and I got a nod from the assessor. It was very gratifying.   

So, now with chartership under your belt – what next?! 

With a growth mindset, the learning continues; it never has to end. I’m always on the look-out for opportunities to broaden my knowledge and sharpen my skills, and build a strong professional network. I’m really excited to be volunteering with the CIPR Crisis Communications Network, which has so far proven to be career-enhancing, as I keep learning from senior colleagues and crisis communication experts.    

How would you advise anyone who is planning their professional learning and development journey – what has worked well for you? 

Personally, the first step was to get grounded in the academic aspect of the profession by taking the specialist course offered by PR Academy. Then I built on this by joining the professional body. There is so much value in connecting with professionals in the field as they’ve got a wealth of experience to share, which will guide you in shaping your own career.  

Perspectives on crisis communication