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Well done Cricket Australia – how not to manage a crisis

By John Wells

As Cricket Australia learned very quickly, the vast amount of grief coming from this month’s crisis in test cricket, is of their own making. What started as a difficult issue for CA was quickly turned into a full blown crisis.

It is instructive to learn from these issues and crises, and see how they can be prevented in the future. This one appears to have all the hallmarks of a crisis that will go on for some time, despite CA’s attempts to downplay it.

The best recipe for crisis communications is good old fashion issues management.

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The key principles to help you to prevent or survive a communications crisis:

1. Don't make things worse!

2. Get the story over and done with, and

3. Remember there’s always next week and next year.

In the case of Cricket Australia, they broke all three of these rules. And now they are paying for it.

Let’s have a quick look at the issue.

1. What makes this worse

The constant speculation around what happened in South Africa in the third test, how it happened and who was responsible, was very unhelpful. Pretending the planning for this ball tampering incident involved the bowlers only made the matter worse; and then believing once the three players were sacked, everything would be okay, only caused the issue to escalate to a crisis.

I would argue that CA made the issue worse.

2. Getting the story over with

This means quick disclosure of the facts.  Gather ALL the information and get it out quickly – don’t suspend players before you articulate the facts.  If there are delays, announce the delays and the reasons for the delays.  There is an old saying: “if you manage an issue properly you will prevent a crisis”. This issue was not properly managed and it escalated into a crisis.

3. Remember there’s next week and next year

You must conduct yourself in self-respecting ways.  You will be dealing with many of the same media and journalists again. The perception of you by the media in the future will depend on how you handle this matter. The aftermath of this crisis could last as long as your career if you really screw things up.

This crisis is going to come back to haunt CA for a long time.

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Points to consider

Ensure your organisation has a sound and inclusive culture and that all significant issues within the organisation are identified and properly managed.

Pre-crisis planning

Make sure you have a crisis plan that it is well-focused and well-tested. It is clear from this crisis that CA did not have an appropriate plan to manage such an issue.