In the event of a company crisis, those in charge must be able to address and answer the following questions: In the face of an organisational crisis which is made public, when should crisis management begin (short answer: yesterday), and who should they turn to handle a major crisis?
In the halcyon days before global pandemics dominated the 24/7 news cycle, public relations nightmares, such as those suffered by one or two well-known organisations were subjects headlines that businesses feared the most, much like governments all over the world are currently facing. But rather than ‘coronavirus’, the feared keywords included ‘whistleblower’, or ‘data breach’.
While the current pandemic is sure to dominate our collective headspace for the foreseeable future, corporate PR disasters of the “ordinary” kind - e.g., fraud, shareholder disputes, unemployment and #MeToo issues, etc. - will regain their place in the news before we know it.
Until the news cycle returns to ‘normal’, there is much to be learned from seeing how national governments caught unawares and unprepared for the current healthcare and economic disaster.
The most basic lesson: Advanced crisis management planning, stress testing, planning, strategy and evaluating adequate resource levels and provision are critical for any entity which could be facing a crisis or disaster, which may be beyond their control.
Crisis Management Methods, Old and New
Traditionally, some crisis management plans are implemented after the issue at hand, whether that is a natural disaster, fire incident, product recall, economic downturn, company-wide fraud, or financial management issue.
When such a predicament is discovered - or worse, made public - what do corporations do? They react.
To their credit, many companies answer for problems that can potentially become a crisis is to initiate an investigation. But this would result in taking one step back, while adverse publicity increases the pressure, while also never really knowing what lies ahead, until completion of the internal enquiries.
By then, the effects can be severe in the form of damage to the reputation of an organisation, lost custom, the morale of the employees, and quite often taking a hit to its revenue. There are smarter ways.
Effective business resilience
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that the best course of action is not to wait for a crisis before planning for a solution. This approach can often put an organisation on the back foot and in a defensive position.
Instead, companies should proactively build business continuity plans before ending up face-to-face with a developing crisis. By employing this more preemptive take on business resilience and crisis management, businesses can get ahead of potentially devastating narratives, better manage inevitable collateral and reputational damage, and potentially better resolve an emergency in a successful manner.
The Crisis Management A-Team
When ‘ordinary’ operational problems arise - for example, benign supply chain disruptions, market uncertainty, etc. - executive-level oversight and intervention is usually sufficient to hush any lingering concerns.
But for next-level corporate trauma, like cyber-attacks, environmental disasters, executive controversy, and social media backlash, crisis management may well prove the solution.
Such is the case with the risk of a global pandemic that governments should have prepared well in advance. A pandemic is one of many conditions that companies should plan for in advance, but not only that, they should have assembled the right team to do the necessary planning.
The members on a corporation’s crisis management team may include senior management and members from the following teams - communications and PR specialists, human resources, legal advisor, health and safety, financial advisors and aides to take notes and minutes from meetings. Supporting the group should be independent outside counsel who not only understands the company’s business and operations but also is trusted by internal stakeholders.
Crisis management planning should also be framed through a legal lens because the byproduct of almost every corporate major crisis could well be exposed to liability.
The right team of professionals can work together to foresee situations and events that could derail a business. With that information to hand, they are then prepared and equipped to compile response and risk mitigation strategies tailored to particular occurrences, while geared towards preserving a company’s goodwill, reputation, and revenue, while shielding it from legal liability.
And when an actual full-blown crisis occurs, the crisis management A-team - one that has a preexisting working relationship and can cooperatively control a given situation - having anticipated (at least within the margins) the scope of the crisis, are ready to act and implement the correct measures and response.
By having a team of legal, comms, HR, H&S, PR, and financial pros reporting to company’s officers and directors and prepared to act on behalf of a corporation in a crisis, the pro-active approach to crisis management frees up the company management to continue to run the business so it can remain viable and thrive, despite any crisis.
If you are need of expert help with a crisis management plan, contact our team today.