A Crisis contains the highest potential to destroy a company’s reputation, brand and share value. How a company reacts and communicates, improves perceptions and speeds recovery.
A reputation is probably the single most important asset an organization owns. You rarely get a second chance to avert a crisis. It is crucial that you have in place a crisis capability such as a crisis management plan and the know-how to hopefully avoid, plan for and act, when a crisis arises.
“Crisis in the Chinese language is represented by two characters. One symbolizes danger: the other opportunity.”
If I had the opportunity to address a Board of Directors about the need for adequate crisis response planning and emergency preparation, there are only six points we would discuss, and the discussion would take just a few minutes. They are:
1. How surviving the first two hours of an emergency or disaster can save assets, markets, and reputations.
2. How poorly handled crises can end careers. The Ford Bridgestone tyre withdrawal, the 1999 contamination of Coca-Cola in Europe and the BP Gulf of Mexico crisis all ended the career of the companies’ Chairpersons/CEO’s and are excellent high-profile examples.
3. Why the expectations of outsiders and various stakeholders will control the perception of how a crises is managed.
4. How handling a crisis insensitively, or not at all, can escalate visibility, cost, and reputational damage. (Look up Dow- Corning’s handling of the breast implant disaster)
5. Why what the Board says and does and when it is said and done will profoundly affect the organization’s reputation for some period after the crisis subsides.
6. How Social Media has changed the Crisis Management & Communication landscape and why prior preparation to communicate in nano- seconds is vital.
The single purpose for preparing to manage the unplanned visibility caused by a crisis is to survive the first few seconds, minutes, hours, and perhaps day or two of the problem – if indeed it lasts that long. The greatest inaccuracy, misinformation, and error occur during this very early time frame. In fact, most communications energy following this early phase will focus on the correcting errors, mistakes, and misperceptions created at the beginning of the problem.
Fortunately, with a modest amount of preparation, practice, and assignment of roles and tasks, early miscues can be minimized and corrected. That means less damage to reputation, credibility, and employee morale. When bad news occurs, there are critical audiences, including your own employees, who have expectations of your behavior and ability to manage problems. Every one of your stakeholders will focus on your organization’s response. How it acted, what it said, all of these will either add or distract from the organization’s reputation.
The reality and the perceptions created during the crisis need to be addressed. Experience have taught the importance of foresight and preplanning. A Crisis Response and Communication Plan is a blue print of what processes and actions needs to kick in depending on the type of crisis facing the organization.
In this respect, I advise clients BEFORE, DURING and AFTER a crisis and on all aspects.
I work with organizations to build their crisis management capability. This may entail :
- The writing and development of crisis management plans,
- Crisis communication protocols,
- Strategic advice,
- The coaching and counseling of leaders and;
- The auditing of existing plans. (Plans range from emergency response plans to detailed communication plans).
I also work with clients to protect them against reputational risk. Services include the provision of strategic advice, diagnosis of issues, problems and incidents as well as the design and writing of reputation risk management frameworks, policies and procedures – See the work I did for Vodacom.