What keeps you awake at night?

This is the first question we ask our clients when we start to talk about crisis communications. Unfortunately, crises in the workplace happen when you least expect it. Being prepared with a robust communication plan in line with your operational actions is key when it comes to protecting your reputation. The number of crises that can affect your company might feel endless but, in reality, most fall under the big five: death or serious injury, IT, environment, crime and compliance.

Recognising what kinds of crises you might have to tackle allows you to consider the people, places and processes that could be affected, and gives you the chance to form the basis of your plan. Here, our crisis lead Jonathan Boddy talks about the risks for each, recent examples and how to stay safe:

Death or serious injury

It’s hardly surprising that a major incident involving staff, customers, consumers of a product or users of a service tops the list of potential risks. A recent example is the circumstances surrounding the teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s sad death from an allergic reaction after eating a Pret A Manger baguette. Read more on how Pret’s response could have been better here.


These days, business operations naturally have an increased dependency on technology, meaning any IT related incident is going to have a major negative impact. Imagine losing your IT system, experiencing a data breach via a deliberate hacking or facing a ransomware-based demand by an organisations such as WannaCry – like the recent attacks on the NHS IT systems.


Often the most visible of the five incidents are related to estates. This might be a fire, flood or structural damage to a key building, such as a head office or manufacturing site. These types of crisis always provide dramatic images that help to raise the profile of the incident.


The discovery of criminal activity is always big and bad news. The recent drone incidents at Gatwick and Heathrow are a prominent example of illegal activity capturing the public interest. A journalist will tell you that fraud makes good headlines too, as do inquests and court cases against an organisation (as well as individuals within it).


Quality or safety-related issues like product recall or intervention by a regulatory body suspending a license to operate clearly highlight the threat that a crisis represents to an organisation’s ability to operate, as well as its public reputation. This could be something relatively local like the closing of a kitchen following an environmental health inspection or something with far wider implications such unsafe cladding used on high rise properties following the Grenfell tower tragedy.

Don’t let any of the top five keep you awake at night. Get in touch now on enquiries@papillonpr.co.uk to discover how we can help you plan and prepare should the worst happen.