Jerry Hendin's insight on crisis communication

Jerry Hendin

After more than 25 years of providing crisis communications to the world’s airlines, I recently had the opportunity to learn from and train executives at one of the world’s largest airports.

I start every training presentation with my belief that virtually every crisis is predictable because they have happened before. Nowhere is that more true than at airports because the majority of aircraft accidents happen during take-off or landing.

Of course, airports have other crises—environmental, management and labor issues, weather-related, terrorism, cyber-security—that can slow down or stop their operations and, in the process, affect their reputations.

Regardless of the causes, the anatomy of crises—from surprise to denial to lack of information to short- and then long-term action—remains largely similar across most enterprises.

The solution to resolving most crises is having a plan that clearly establishes who will do what and when…with details of each process and supporting tools designed specifically to ensure that your reputation remains intact.

While many organizations have adequate plans in place, my experience suggests that fewer of them practice those plans in “real-life” simulation. That is to say, they practice:

  • With headquarters personnel only, but forget to include people outside of HQ

  • With their own personnel, but forget about their partners

  • At a time convenient for them, but forget that crises can happen at any time

  • The impact of the present crisis but forget that crises rarely travel in straight lines

  • In a media-free bubble, but forget that media is an important part of how their message is received

Long and short, having a plan is a good, but practice--and regular practice—is better.

Over the past several years, BHK partners have developed a number of scenarios for airlines, airports and manufacturers. If you would like more information, please contact Barbara, Linden or myself.