Ecological crisis: River polluted by chemicals

Pollutant input into the Jagst river: E&Z assumes crisis management

Which measures lead to a successful crisis communication and how to build up a reputation protection?

After a fire accident in the Schwäbisch Hall district, a 17-kilometer pollutant plume drives along the Jagst, one of the ecologically richest rivers in Baden-Württemberg. Within the following three days it will reach the adjacent district of Hohenlohe. Politicians, resident fishermen, conservationists and the population are upset and worried about the Jagst. The media provide nationwide reports and status updates about the actions taken by responsible politicians to prevent the worst case.

E&Z takes over an ad hoc mandate

Even though the affected districts have come into this crisis by no fault of their own, all stakeholders expect the political representatives to take targeted measures in crisis prevention and crisis management to prevent the worst – the total extinction of species in the Jagst. Considering the immense extent of media coverage to be expected, the Hohenlohe district decides to seek professional communication support before the pollutant plume arrives in its district. Engel & Zimmermann is charged with ad hoc crisis communication for the Hohenlohekreis.

What were our goals during this crisis communication?

The aim of the entire crisis management was to provide the various stakeholders with all the important information in a timely manner, to communicate specific measures to deal with the crisis and to provide the best possible reputation protection through a transparent dialogue following the fire disaster.

How did E & Z set up crisis management?

Step 1:

Setting up professional media monitoring is an elementary tool in crisis prevention. On the one hand, this includes the minute-by-minute screening of online media, social media, blogs and forums according to defined keywords. On the other hand, all print publications are generated via a classic clipping service, so that all parties involved received an update on current media coverage several times a day. During a crisis Engel & Zimmermann continuously evaluates the reporting, for example to counteract false statements in a timely manner and to be able to adjust the various crisis communication measures to the news situation.

Step 2:

All information was obtained in co-operation with the Hohenlohe district press office. On this basis the most important documents for an ad hoc crisis communication were prepared: language arrangements on the most important questions – prepared to varying degrees of information for own employees, media representatives and citizens -, development of core messages and speeches for interview situations, preparation of stakeholder mappings for the evaluation of the various interest groups and the research of experts and opinion leaders in the field of water and nature conservation as a further measure of risk management.

Step 3:

Continuous information of the media representatives about the dispatch of press releases and the timely response to all press inquiries. The focus here is on naming the exact measures that should be taken to protect the Jagst.

Step 4:

In addition to providing information to the public continuously, the timely designation of further measures for crisis management was a top priority. For this purpose, a dialogue format was developed and the initiative “Future of the Jagst in the Hohenlohe district” was founded. In addition to the development of the format, the organization of the kick-off event, the research of the panelists, the moderation of the event and the writing of the individual notes were part of the agency’s performance.