Good morning. [If applicable] Thank you, Mr. Kilbourne for your kind introduction. Early conference materials I received referred to this segment as “Enterprise Risk Management and Disaster Recovery.” The events of September 11th have thrust ERM into the forefront. Aon Corporation is headquartered in Chicago, but our second largest office with 1,100 employees was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. We lost 176 colleagues in the September 11 th disaster. Today, I would like to focus on how communication helped us get through the crisis, and what we’ve learned that may be of some help to you.
On the day of the attack, The Aon Center in Chicago – also one of the tallest buildings in the world – was immediately evacuated. We quickly established a crisis Command Center at another of our locations in suburban Glenview. Within three hours we had a conference room equipped with fax machines and extra phones. We also pulled together our crisis team including executives from: Human Resources Information Technology Real Estate/Facilities/Travel Corporate Communications Investor Relations Legal We all immediately agreed that the first concern and overriding priority was the safety and well-being of our Aon colleagues. I’d like to give you a brief overview of how these groups responded and how Corporate Communications fit into the picture.
The Human Resources team was faced with the responsibility of managing colleagues’ and victims families’ welfare, rehabilitation and counseling. It was important to determine what has happening to our employees as quickly as possible. With that in mind, we established a 24/7 crisis hotline. The hotline was staffed by HR personnel and Aon volunteers. As colleagues and family members called-in, status information was logged: number of colleagues safe; number of colleagues missing. As the WTC HR staff called in, they were immediately and willingly pressed into service. The HR team also set up Crisis Support Centers in five New York metropolitan locations: in New York City at the Plaza hotel, in Brooklyn, Long Island, and in New Jersey and Connecticut. These centers were staffed with: Professional grief counselors Benefits consultants Workers’ compensation specialists, and Senior HR professionals
In my opinion, one important choice we made for the sake of communication was to assign a senior HR professional to each employee or family. In a time of confusion and loss, communicating with Aon was made much easier by putting it on a more personal level. These “case workers” provided one easy point of contact for families. The HR team also worked to establish benefits enhancements and policies for pay continuation and returning to work. You see a representative list here.
Information Technology employees from across the country stepped up, stepped in, and worked around the clock to support disaster recovery. They immediately began implementing disaster recovery plans that were already in place, activating back up systems and rerouting lines and circuits to other data hubs. They identified and recovered data using backup tapes. They provided support for the crisis response team in: Communications – IT coordinators devised a process for rapidly publishing and updating information the Internet and Intranet web sites. The real estate search – for temporary office space that would effectively meet our technology needs They worked with vendors to wire and configure new office space.
The real estate/facilities/travel team also worked on a number of issues with diligence and speed. After the Crisis Command Center was established, they immediately started the search for temporary office space in New York. They found it and outfitted it with furniture and services equipment in just six days. The travel group blocked space at hotels in and around the NYC area for Crisis Support Centers and sleeping rooms for out-of-state Crisis Response team members and victims’ families traveling to New York for memorial services. They also helped stranded colleagues make alternative travel arrangements to get home after air traffic was halted.
As this diagram illustrates, it was essential that the crisis response teams work together in a coordinated effort. It was the Communications team that focused on key, interrelated functions and provided methods and vehicles to quickly disseminate information from the various teams to the the appropriate audiences.
These were our key audiences. Internally, we focused on: WTC colleagues who were safe Victims’ families All other New York colleagues All other colleagues globally Externally, we focused on: Clients Business partners Shareholders and the financial community The media As I mentioned earlier, we decided early on that our employees and their families were our first priority. Clients, shareholders and other business partners were incredibly supportive during the disaster, and, although most client information was recoverable from Aon’s proprietary client management systems, our clients were extraordinary about helping us rebuild paper files and fill in data gaps.
Part of our job was simply to develop and/or use existing processes to reach the right audience with the right message. Having well-established communications vehicles already in place can be tremendously useful in times of crisis. We worked relentlessly to see that information got out in a timely manner. Because Aon is a global organization, we also briefed our global marketing and communications committee (GMCC) network daily via conference calls and e-mails to ensure consistent messaging around the world. The network was very helpful in identifying media spokespersons to address requests for industry-expert interviews and industry-specific white papers.
In any time of crisis, people become desperate for information – to fill the human need for knowing “what’s going on.” Corporate Communications focused on coordinating, integrating, and disseminating up-to-date information on: the impact of the crisis and the extent to which our employees had been affected, the support systems that were being set up for our colleagues and their families,and time tables for returning to work. We coordinated messages and developed targeted communications for our various audiences.
Of course, we worked to see that the media had all appropriate information and that media queries were handled promptly. It was also our responsibility to make certain that company spokespersons had all the latest information. As you know, making sure that everyone is “singing from the same songbook,” can be daunting, but by acting as the centralized key message center, and by limiting the number of spokespersons, we were able to respond consistently to all of our audiences.
Perhaps one of the best decisions we made was to rely on our own corporate internet site as a one-stop resource for most audiences. This happened in part via necessity. Most New York employees were unable to log-in to our Intranet site from home, but most would be able to access Aon.com, our external web site. As you can see, the link to crisis information was placed where it could easily be found. That link is still there today, and we are still using the website as a source for follow-up information.
The website is a wealth of information. Initially, it was used as a source of information on: victims and survivors, the crisis counseling centers and other New York resources, HR, legal and travel support for New York families, and memorial services. The text from the speeches Mr. Ryan gave at non-denominational memorial services at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago are also available. Aon employees outside of New York immediately expressed a desire to help in any way they could. The Aon Memorial Education Fund was established quickly for employees to show their support by contributing something to the families of the victims. That information is on the website as well. There is also an entire section devoted to information for our clients and vendors including information about maintaining business continuity.
Perhaps the most touching part of the website is a special section titled “Aon Remembers.” It is an online memorial – an interactive site celebrating the lives of Aon employees who were lost in the disaster.
There are stories, photos, letters and poems. It’s possible to e-mail a tribute to the site.
It is nearly impossible to separate the success of the communications effort from the success of the team in a crisis situation. It is absolutely essential that cross-functional teams work together. For example, the Real Estate/Facilities coordinators quickly designated the Crisis Command Center, providing the call center. HR staffed the Crisis Hotline, while Corporate Communications scripted the logging/documentation process used by the hotline staff. No single group would have been effective by itself. Teamwork was absolutely essential. Keep senior managers involved. This can help move decisions forward, so that information can be communicated more quickly. Timeliness is top priority when you’re in a crisis. Supplying up-to-date information is so important, yet without a coordinated effort it is nearly impossible to do. An addendum to this point would be to supply information WHETHER OR NOT it is COMPLETE information. If we had had to wait for complete information on everything we communicated, there are many topics that we would have yet to address. Using the Communications staff as the “gatekeepers” helps to ensure consistency. Finally, have plans in place. I should mention that a strong technology support group will only make the process run more smoothly for all concerned. At Aon, the web team is a part of Corporate Communications, so we’re used to working together efficiently.
Some final thoughts on communicating in times of crisis Communications is an ongoing process. If you do it well on a regular basis, you’ll have the resources in place to do it well when a crisis occurs. Crisis management is also an ongoing process. Your crisis communications plan should be revisited and updated regularly. It should include a means of incorporating lessons learned and continuous improvements. Crisis management is a team effort. Interrelated functions of an organization cannot be separated. Building strong relationships with other parts of your organization on a daily basis can only work to your advantage when a crisis hits. Let me conclude by saying that in a perfect world, you would never get to test your crisis plan. Sadly, our world is not perfect, but we can make some things run more smoothly by being prepared.
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Recovering from Disaster Lessons learned in crisis management and communication Casualty Actuarial Society Enterprise Risk Management Panel May 21, 2002
The Initial Response <ul><li>The Crisis Response team assembled and the Command Center was operational within three hours after the attack </li></ul><ul><li>Team members managing the crisis included executives from: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Human Resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information Technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Real Estate/Facilities/Travel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Corporate Communications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Investor Relations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Legal </li></ul></ul>The first concern and overriding priority was the safety and well-being of our Aon colleagues.
The Human Resources Response <ul><li>Determined the whereabouts of Aon colleagues and re-established contact with the WTC HR staff </li></ul><ul><li>Set up a 24/7 crisis hotline </li></ul><ul><li>Established Crisis Support Centers in five New York Metropolitan locations. Centers were staffed with: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Professional grief counselors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Benefits consultants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Workers’ compensation specialists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Senior HR professionals </li></ul></ul>
Human Resources (continued) <ul><li>Assigned senior HR professionals to serve as “case workers” for victims’ families: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Case load of 5-10 families each </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Single point of contact </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Available 24/7 to answer all questions and resolve any issues </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Established benefits enhancements, pay continuation, and return-to-work policies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Extended medical coverage at group rates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Additional burial benefits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Free legal services (Kirkland & Ellis) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Financial planning services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family members’ transportation to memorial services in New York (no restrictions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ongoing grief counseling, as needed, for any family member </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accommodating return-to-work timetables </li></ul></ul>
The IT Response <ul><li>Implemented systems disaster recovery plans, identifying resources and managing technological business resumption capabilities </li></ul><ul><li>Activated back-up systems to reroute lines and circuits to other data hubs </li></ul><ul><li>Identified and recovered lost data </li></ul><ul><li>Provided technological support to the Crisis Response team </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Communications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Real estate search </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Created environment for business resumption – wiring new offices </li></ul>
Real Estate/Facilities/Travel Response <ul><li>Within three hours of the attack, the Crisis Command Center was operational. </li></ul><ul><li>Within 24 hours of the attack, options for new office space in Manhattan were being reviewed. </li></ul><ul><li>New office space was acquired within six days of the attack. </li></ul><ul><li>Within three days of the attack, hotel space was blocked for Crisis Support Centers and sleeping rooms for victim’s families and out-of-state Crisis Response team members. </li></ul><ul><li>Travel group worked around the clock to help assist stranded travelers and victims’ families </li></ul>
The Action Plan <ul><li>Team coordinators acted as an interdependent group to execute duties and tasks simultaneously on several fronts </li></ul><ul><li>The Communications team focused on key interrelated functions </li></ul>Business Continuity Information Technology Real Estate Facilities Travel Human Resources
The Communications Response – Audiences <ul><li>Identified and prioritized key audiences/stakeholders </li></ul>NYC WTC colleagues who were safe All other NY colleagues All other colleagues globally Victims’ families Internal External Clients Business partners Shareholders/ Financial community Media Communications
The Communications Response – Vehicles <ul><li>Developed processes and procedures for information and key message delivery to all audiences. We used a variety of channels: </li></ul><ul><li>Internal channels </li></ul><ul><li>Press releases </li></ul><ul><li>Internet/Intranet sites </li></ul><ul><li>Global e-mails </li></ul><ul><li>Global conference calls </li></ul><ul><li>Targeted advertising </li></ul><ul><li>GMCC conference calls </li></ul><ul><li>External channels </li></ul><ul><li>Press releases </li></ul><ul><li>Internet site </li></ul><ul><li>Targeted advertising </li></ul><ul><li>Press appearance </li></ul>
<ul><li>Coordinated, integrated, and disseminated up-to-date information on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The impact of the crisis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Colleague support systems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Return to work timetables </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Coordinated key messages across team functions to develop targeted communications for: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Colleagues and victims’ families impacted by the WTC disaster </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internal audiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>External audiences </li></ul></ul>The Communications Response – Messages
The Communications Response – Media relations <ul><li>Managed media relations </li></ul><ul><li>Briefed company spokespersons </li></ul><ul><li>Identified key senior management spokespersons to respond to media inquiries </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Director of Marketing Communications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Director of Financial Relations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Executives, particularly the Chief Human Resources Officer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CEO Patrick G. Ryan </li></ul></ul>
Communicating in a Crisis: What We Learned <ul><li>Use a team approach </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Crisis Response team worked in concert across functions to execute interrelated tasks and activities </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Keep senior management involved </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The decision-making process was easier because senior management was available to make decisions on the spot to move actions forward </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Supply up-to-date information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Up-to-date information is critical in times of crisis – it helps to avoid confusion, frustration, even panic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use the communications staff as “gatekeepers” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This will ensure consistency in messages. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Have disaster recovery plans in place </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Plan for the unexpected and you’ll be ready when disaster strikes </li></ul></ul>
Some Final Thoughts <ul><li>Communication is an ongoing process. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The stronger your communication function is under everyday circumstances, the more effective it will be in a crisis situation. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Crisis management is also an ongoing process, not just a plan </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It should be flexible enough to cope with ever-changing crisis types </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It should be revisited, reviewed and updated regularly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It should include a means of incorporating lessons learned and continuous improvements </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Crisis management is a team effort. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The interrelated functions of the organization cannot be separated. The team must work as a cohesive unit in all areas of the crisis. </li></ul></ul>