Beware Red Kites and Lions

Aug 1, 2015

This morning I was listening to an interview on Radio Scotland, and a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) manager was talking about Red Kites. The birds were reintroduced to Scotland in 1989 and there has been an ongoing issue with them being shot and poisoned mainly near to grouse moors. The RSPB man was talking about how the RSPB and the Police were working together to try and catch the persons who have been killing the birds.

The interviewer commented that, with 70 migrants found suffocated in a van in Hungary, and with 500 missing off the coast of Libya, should we be worried about a few poisoned birds? The RSPB man had to admit this was true but also said that people get very passionate about birds of prey, and so the RSPB have a duty to try and prevent the birds coming to harm.

In crisis management, and during incidents, the extent and the passion of those who react to an incident (even if it does not affect them) is very much driven by the emotional appeal of the victim of the incident. With Cecil the Lion we have a named animal; people love lions, and people can relate to the incident and get emotional about it, even if they had never heard of Cecil before the incident. While on the other hand migrants do not have the same emotional appeal, they are nameless, and throughout Europe there is a high percentage of the population who are hostile or neutral to them settling in their country. So incidents concerning Red Kites and lions are going to have more impact due to their emotional appeal.

What this means to us as business continuity people is that we should be aware of our vulnerabilities to incidents which are likely to have an emotional appeal. The victims directly affected by the incident could be smaller in number than those who have an emotional reaction to the incident, which could be where the damage to your reputation is done.

In many of the books on crisis management they talk about doing a vulnerability analysis of your organisation. This is in addition to the threat analysis carried out as part of the BIA. When conducting these we should take the emotional impact into account.

 Bruce Blythe in his book “Blindsided” gave the following checklist list to analyse your organisations vulnerabilities: 

  1. Query your staff to get their view on vulnerabilities

Surveying your staff might also give you key information

  1. Review your organisations history of incidents
  2. Review history of near misses
  3. Review industry incidents
  4.  Assess your location and see what hazards are local to you
  5. Investigate local crime and labour statistic
  6. Conduct online research into likely incidents

And a couple more that I have added: 

  1. Review existing and previous litigation
  2. Look at complaints and the volume of complaints
  3. Check the trends in the sentiment of those engaging with you on social media

Once you have your vulnerabilities, you need to assess the impact and likelihood of the incidents so you can concentrate on those with the greatest likelihood and impact. 

 In reviewing the impact I think you need to take into account the emotional impact of the incident, not just on the victims, but the impact and response to the wider community. Their response could amplify the incident and make what could be a relatively minor incident into a major reputational issue.  

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