For Allied Bakeries, it was finding needles in some of its loaves. For accountancy firm Weeks Green, a hospitality day out which ended with a client fined for being drunk on the plane home. For Railtrack it was the horror of Paddington. One day it's business as usual, the next day you are in the midst of a disaster. The media is ready to crucify you, and your company's very future is in doubt.
EXPECT THE WORST. Plan ahead for a crisis. You need a business continuity plan to keep operations going in the event of a warehouse fire, systems failure or any other disaster, says Michael Regester of reputation risk consultancy Regester Larkin. 'You should also have a communications plan which outlines how you will communicate quickly and effectively with key stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, shareholders and the media,' he adds. Make it clear who has specific responsibility for contacting particular individuals, and how other groups will be contacted.
STAY COOL. In practice most crisis-hit executives run round like headless chickens, says independent consultant Michael Bland, author of Communicating out of a Crisis. 'You need to take a cool strategic overview. Ask yourself if everyone has a common view of the situation. How bad can it get? What message do you need to put out and how?' The first 24 hours are often crucial.