Atlantis Plastics : Reacting to tragedy
The web is overlooked as a channel in crisis management.
Atlantis Plastics, a US-based specialist manufacturing group, underused its website in its handling of the aftermath of fatal shootings at one of its plants.
Atlantis Plastics’ has a Company News panel on the right of all pages across its site. This currently alternates between ‘Click here’ links to, respectively, all press releases and a statement from the chief executive “in response to the shooting incident at the company’s Henderson, Kentucky plant”. The latter links to a PDF of a short four-paragraph press release acknowledging the incident (a worker shot dead five fellow employees and himself during the Tuesday/Wednesday [24/25 June] nightshift) and giving a named contact for further information. This was posted late morning on the Wednesday.
More than 24 hours after the incident there was no further information for customers (production was suspended), employees or the local community. The site has an Employees main section which links to the company intranet; however, throughout the day and into Thursday it was returning “Page… not currently available. Please try again later…”.
Atlantis Plastics has in many ways acted swiftly and compassionately to the fatal incident: grief counselling has or is being provided for managers and workers; limited production will resume “to try to avoid jeopardising” its main customer; and the Henderson plant manager answered questions at a news conference. Doubtless, more is being done through conventional channels. However, you have to follow coverage on local and national/international news sites to find any of this out. Anyone going to the company’s website – which, given the international coverage of the incident could be anyone – would have the impression that it is either too stunned to cope with events or is in denial and wants to handle it all behind its closed doors.
What might Atlantis have done if the website had been more integral to its crisis management strategy? For a start, made sure that the link to the company intranet was working; having a prominent Employees section is unusual and commendable but only if it works when most needed. Second, provided a statement and separate contact points for customers and members of the local community, to help manage their legitimate concerns and enquiries. Third, reproduced the CEO’s statement in full on the site, preferably either on the home page or the About Atlantis introduction. Other features, such as an online book of condolence, could be considered in the circumstances. Above all, recognised that the web adds another dimension which both attracts more attention to and allows better management of a crisis situation.http://www.atlantisplastics.com/index.htm
First published on 26 June, 2008