Beware the Exploding Cafe


Crisis Communication – Case Study – *This is a true case study and all details are correct, except the names have been changed to protect the identities.

Klaus* crept silently along the trash containers that bordered the back car park of his city café. It was dark and Klaus was careful not to knock over any bins or draw attention to himself. The only illumination was from the street but no light was cast down the alley where Klaus was now fiddling with a padlock on the metal gates. Once inside the gates, Klaus let himself in to the back door of his café, which fronted on to a busy city street.

It was just 3.00am with only garbage men and shift workers to hear the explosion. But when commuters started trying to access the surrounding city car parks and offices a few hours later, they were met with barricades, police directing traffic, and large hunks of concrete lying in the middle of what had been a busy thoroughfare. The radio news started reporting of road closures and a suspected explosion but it wasn’t known if there had been any deaths, the cause or the damage.

Photographers jockeyed for better vantage points. The roads were closed for blocks in every direction and no-one was allowed in to the area except emergency services, medical and police personnel.

Would the building collapse? Did a bomb cause the explosion? Was there another bomb set to go off? Had this been an act of terrorism?

For thousands of office and other workers, the situation was frustratingly real. Because for many blocks surrounding the area, no businesses were allowed access.

Lawyers couldn’t access files and go to appointed court appearances. Restaurants couldn’t open; what about food deliveries? Florists had flowers dying. Travel agents had phones being unanswered. Car parks couldn’t operate. The mechanic couldn’t hand cars back to customers. Government offices couldn’t be accessed. Banks couldn’t process funds. A situation had occurred for hundreds of businesses over which they had no control. But how could they tell their customers and suppliers and people relying on them that something had happened?

When a crisis occurs, it’s not necessarily something you could have avoided. But being prepared to communicate to your important audience is something for which you CAN prepare. Crisis Communication Planning and Management is how and when and what you tell people – the media, your customers, suppliers, regulatory authorities, sponsors, etc.

Did the restaurant owners have a communication plan to tell their suppliers not to deliver? What about table bookings for that day? Were the florists able to tell their customers that they wouldn’t be able to make deliveries that day? Or have a plan to contact an alliance florist to make the deliveries for them? Or even a list of that day’s deliveries on a disc away from the shop? Would law firms be able to access their files remotely?

And what of Klaus? He died. Whether it was accidental or not – and rumors abounded that he was in severe financial difficulties – Klaus’s actions had catastrophic effects for some of the businesses in the immediate area. The sports store and the yoga studio above the café were burnt out and smoke & water damaged.  The owner of the sports store had insurance to cover the loss of stock, but what about loss of trading? The building had to be demolished and all the tenants had to find alternative premises. Klaus’s family had to endure lies and rumors because they didn’t have a plan, or a mechanism, to defend him.

If something happened to your business over which you did, or did not, have control, would you have a plan to save the image and reputation of your business in the eyes of your key audience? Insurance might save the flowers and the food, but will it save your reputation?

  • What are your crisis communication skills?
  • Would you know exactly what to say, to whom, and when?
  • Do you know it’s not just the media you have to deal with?
  • What about your key audiences?
  • How will you win back customers, and their trust?
  • Do you know why you NEVER let lawyers run your crisis communication planning?
  • Do you know what to give the media and what to hold back?
  • Do you know exactly how to retain the image and reputation of YOUR business without spending thousands of dollars?

We do.

Insanely Clever Marketing is a small business consultancy that provides strategic advice & planning on all aspects of crisis communication, public relations,marketing, and social media.

Ph 0618+ 421 043 505 or e-mail

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