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The Rupp Report: Crisis - What Crisis?

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Often things change in an editorial calendar ... or something happens. That's why journalists are virtually always in a hurry to get answers immediately and to be on time for publication.

Currently, Textile World and Textiles Panamericanos are working on a country survey among the most important companies belonging to CEMATEX (the European Committee of Textile Machinery Manufacturers) member associations. Companies in Switzerland, Italy, Germany and France will be the first countries to have a look at it. The results will be published in TPA and also will be published online at TextileWorld .com and TextilesPanamericanos .com.

Missed Opportunity
As usual, for this kind of work, the questionnaire was sent out with the request to mail back the answers as soon as possible - which means three to four days. Some did send back the answers; some didn't.

Mostly, the explanation for not being able to participate is the following sentence: "Sorry, our CEO is not available at the moment. As soon as he's back in the office, we will let you know the answer — in about one week's time." Fair enough. Hopefully these companies will not complain when they are not mentioned in the survey. Deadlines are deadlines. But a missed opportunity is just one side of the coin. The other side is quite tricky.

Starting A — Negative — Avalanche
Picture this, dear reader: In your production, one of your workers had an accident. Or, as another example: In most countries, a strike in a mill can occur for whatever reason. A walkout of the workers will provoke immediate questions, which lead to public information. Or, as an even more dramatic situation: Something happened with a garment made of your yarns or fabrics. The lady who wore the garment attended a party, and it caught on fire from a cigarette or lighter. She was severely hurt, and the public impact will be huge and loud. The list of situations that may require a clear statement from the management can be extended endlessly. All of you, dear readers, know at least one or two examples. This is the first act of the - now public - drama.

After you have solved the immediate problem, the public is always knocking at your door — and "public" here means, first of all, the daily newspapers and the TV stations. They want to talk to you, but "Sorry, our CEO or responsible person is not available at the moment. As soon as they are back in the office we will let you know" — and so on. And this is the next act of the drama and the trigger to your real big problems.

Why? Because today, we are an interlinked society and live in a world of social media, and social media never sleeps. The Internet and its different platforms such as Facebook or Twitter are so powerful that your inability to give an answer right away will immediately kick off a negative avalanche (See " The Rupp Report: Beware of Communication," TextileWorld.com, October 23, 2012). Then, you will truly be in deep trouble.

Be Prepared
Every company must be prepared for every problem that can occur, no matter whether it's on a local, national or global scale. The understanding and the perception of the public today is that you and your enterprise have a solution prepared for every situation. How is your company organized? Does a crisis management plan exist? A company strategy cannot be executed without even a simple but efficient crisis management. The solution for that is not so difficult. Just follow your common sense and picture yourself in a similar situation. What do you want to know? In this context, the following questions are important:

  • Who is the overall responsible person for the whole case?
  • Who can help?
  • Where is help?
  • Who is involved in this plan?
  • Is everybody aware of this plan?
  • Does everybody have a written crisis management manual and know his/her responsibilities?

And, more importantly, who is talking to the public? There must be a Mr. Speaker, not only in a parliament. And probably not just one person — a deputy must be designated, just in case — remember the missing CEO. And there are some traps into which you can fall.

Journalists, even if you don't like them at all, are just doing their jobs like all of us. And their job is to get an answer to their questions. A number of journalists from daily newspapers or TV stations have an attitude of behaving sometimes like a prosecutor. Their reaction and behavior depends very much on your own ability to calm down these people and talk to them explaining the situation carefully but truthfully.

There is not enough room in the Rupp Report to write down a full crisis management plan. However, crisis management with a maximum grasp is essential for your company's image. If you want to share with the global readers of the Rupp Report some situations that happened in your own company, please share your thoughts by writing to jrupp@textilworld.com. If requested, the Rupp Report will not disclose your name or your company's name. This exchange of information could probably deliver some answers to your questions ... just like the missing survey about your company. And the question remains: Is a CEO always needed to answer questions — at least from the trade press?

January 22, 2013