By Chris Gilmour

It's not so much fake news as flake news. It's Snowmageddon. Quick, get the gritters out. And cancel the trains. And the planes. Send everyone home. Roll out the crisis management plan.

The Beast from East had London over-reacting in typically British fashion on Monday night. In a fine example of making a drama out of a crisis that hadn't happened yet, the authorities wanted the city centre cleared by 6pm. Come 6pm, it wasn't a whiteout. It was hardly even a bad case of dandruff.

Not so much crisis management as managing to create a crisis when one didn't yet exist.

It clearly demonstrated that at least the powers-that-be were ready for the possibility of an Arctic apocalypse. They had their snowshoes on and the audience fully engaged on social media, radio, TV and print.

Their crisis communications channels were cocked and ready to fire - and then they pulled the trigger too early.

Government, local authorities, train companies, airlines ... they all get it in the neck when they don't prepare. If they are arguably over-prepared and taking no chances and nothing happens, they still get it in the neck.

In this case, they deserve every bit of derision they've faced over the past few days.

Sure, it's better to be criticised for being prepared rather than being unprepared - but proper crisis management is about, er, management of a crisis.

And what was clearly missing here, for the first few days of the week, was the vital element - an actual crisis.

There was no perspective, no sense of being in control. When the weather forecast came in (because they're always accurate, aren't they?), it was simply a case of, "We've got to do something, anything."

So instead of a calm, level-headed, pragmatic response, we had engineered panic - and a load of p****d off commuters across the UK staring at platforms containing no trains. And no snow.

I think we can trace the UK's Arctic panic mentality back to 2010, when the M8 froze solid between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the whole of the UK was blanketed in snow.

For a chunk of November and much of December, the country looked like the inside of a freezer in need of de-icing. Questions were raised by politicians … how could the people in charge let this happen, where was the crisis management?

The country clearly wasn't prepared, despite winter happening every year since the last Ice Age, at least. We needed a plan.

A plan that maintained brand reputation, a masterclass in clever and engaged communications. A plan that involved more grit, more gritters - preferably with funny names like "Gritty McGritface", plenty of traffic warnings, a comprehensive weather alert system, and a massive red button that triggers a huge flashing sign reading: "Don't panic - we're on top of this." 

And gritters. Did we mention gritters?

Clearly, preparation is a major consideration but often pre-emptive cancellations and yellow warnings for snow look like an over-reaction, given what follows. That can be damaging as you have created your own crisis and made yourself a laughing stock.

On Tuesday, BA cancelled 60 flights out of Heathrow. Rail firms ditched services before a flake had fallen.

Fair enough, no one likes to turn up at the airport only for their flight to be cancelled. But is it really better to cancel it two days before, giving travellers 48 hours to be furious and panicky instead of just 90 minutes or so?

I don't think so. What happened the old-fashioned British stiff upper lip - or simply treating people like adults who are capable of making sensible decisions for themselves, instead of helpless imbeciles?

An essential part of crisis management is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

But you need to stay flexible, adaptable, and light on your feet. And when the worst doesn't come, don't pretend it has and then set about showing us how clever you are by having prepared for it.

As I've said often enough, sometimes the best form of crisis management is to do absolutely nothing.

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