‘If you don’t act quickly in a crisis, you’ve almost lost’

One lesson learned out of many that can be applied individually to all industries. Read more!

An interview with Matthias Burkard, a crisis communication consultant

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Corporate crises are a daily topic in the media – quite independently of the effects of the coronavirus crisis, which are still very much present. Whether they’re caused by hacker attacks, environmental disasters, fires, strikes, terrorist attacks or robberies, crises are ever-present and occur in every industry. It’s a fact that few industries are as security-sensitive as the aviation industry. Matthias Burkard, a crisis communication expert in the aviation industry, drew on his more than 20 years of experience to give us tips in an interview and revealed how companies from all sectors can learn from the aviation industry – because the right approach to crisis management can be applied to all sectors.

‘The pressure on a Crisis Management Team is enormous when a plane crashes. FACT24 helped us to pick up speed in communication and coordination with the team in this respect, and that was absolutely crucial.’

Matthias Burkard, a crisis communication consultant working in the aviation sector and formerly the responsible crisis manager of an internationally renowned airline

Brief profile: Matthias Burkard

Matthias Burkard is an expert in crisis communication and the statements he makes are based on more than 20 years of experience in the field of public relations within the energy, logistics and transport industries.

Crises are ever-present and occur in every industry. In practice, how do you recommend that other companies prepare to brace themselves for crises?

Burkard: While there are naturally many aspects to this, a decisive one is definitely technical and organisational preparation: How do I reach my team – and all my employees? Where does my crisis team work if and when a crisis occurs? Can you rely on technology? Will I still be able to work if the internet breaksdown? People who can give positive answers to these questions have created a firm foundation for successful crisis management. This involves more than just internal players; it also includes external target groups like journalists, stakeholders, and so on. The parties that need to be taken into account should be defined in advance for certain crisis scenarios.

The key focus of your work is crisis communication itself. What can you say about the importance of communication in crisis management?

Burkard: Communication strategy naturally plays a very important role. I believe it should be treated as equally important to technical and organisational preparations within crisis management. Preparations for communication – internally and externally – should begin long before the crisis. Analyse in advance what your company’s image is like, think about how you can make it more crisis-proof, and continuously and consistently align communication and marketing measures to this information. There are images that are more ‘suitable’ for crises and those that are less so. This groundwork is immensely beneficial in a crisis situation. As a company, I need to build up an image of reliability. Questions like ‘How do I position myself?’ and ‘How do I respond and communicate?’ have be clarified and implemented beforehand and put into practice in the company’s everyday communication.

What do you currently believe is the greatest challenge for companies in terms of crisis communication?

Burkard: Communication itself is and remains a craft that’s based on a great deal of small-scale and everyday experience in communicating interests. At the same time, nowadays digital crisis management is absolutely indispensable for organising the big picture, because crises are always complex situations. Especially when I think back to my first few years as a communication consultant, it’s great to see what’s possible today and how that makes crisis managers’ work easier. In the end, crises can be overcome better because digitality helps with staying flexible and reducing complexity. Digitalisation has sped up communication immensely. In crisis situations, we have to maintain this pace and are forced to maintain opinion leadership. This is impossible without proper technical preparation.

You still haven’t had enough of the topic “crisis communication”? Then listen to our podcast to find out more.

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