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Five things Alton Towers has done well in its crisis management response

June 3, 2015 by Jonathan Hemus

It’s only when an incident occurs that an organisation discovers whether its crisis management planning has prepared it to deal with the reality of a live crisis.

In the light of the this week’s dreadful accident on the Smiler Ride, it would appear that Alton Towers’ crisis management training has indeed served it well. Here are five things that the business has done well in its crisis management response:

1) Communicated effectively via social media

Social media is always a critical factor in crisis management these days. Alton Towers was quick to post information to its Facebook page and communicate pro-actively via Twitter. Its tone was pitch perfect and it engaged with people asking questions rather than simply broadcasting information.

2) Changed its website homepage

Many organisations fail to consider what to do with their website in the event of a crisis. Alton Towers replaced its normal “buzzy” homepage with a simple message about the incident, in keeping with the seriousness of what had happened.

3) Provided a spokesperson

Rather than let third parties set the agenda, Alton Towers was quick to offer up spokespeople to talk to the media. This allowed them to influence the narrative rather than be passive responders to it.

4) Avoided speculation

With mobile phone footage and many witnesses to the incidents, it was easy for the media to begin speculating about what had happened, why and who was to blame. Alton Towers’ spokesperson Nick Varney remained focused on sympathy for those injured and the investigation, and refused to be drawn into speculation. This is always the right approach for any organisation on day one of a crisis.

5) Decisive and appropriate action

The decision to close the park on the day after the accident was a good one. Of course, it will cost the park money and it may not have been operationally necessary. But in a crisis, being seen to do the right thing is a key consideration in your response. If it appears that your business is more important than the people affected by it, you are in trouble.

No organisation wants to experience a major crisis. However, Alton Towers has demonstrated the value of crisis management planning to ensure you do and say the right thing should the worst happen.

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