In today’s rapidly viral and digital world a CEO’s quote taken out of context can immediately become a corporate crisis. Unfortunately, these turbulent times can strike in varying degrees at any time. The causes of corporate crises can vary greatly, however, there are a few small steps that a CEO can and should take to properly plan for and mitigate the negative effects of a future crisis.
Failing to prepare for crisis communication can be disastrous
A CEO’s failure to plan for crisis communication is a failure to effectively manage his or her company. Historically speaking, failing to prepare for corporate crises has resulted in additional damages. A lack of adequate preparation can result in:
- A break down in operational response, which could lead to a failure to respond altogether.
- Confused or angered stakeholders who will not know what is going on.
- A poor public relations showing that will negatively impact public opinion.
- Additional time will be spent bringing the crisis to a full resolution.
In short, the importance of planning for future instances of crisis communication can be summarized in the infamous words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Every CEO will handle crisis preparation in a slightly different fashion; however, all CEOs should take heed of the following three tips.
- Plan, plan, and plan some more. — CEOs need to invest in crisis management and crisis communications before a crisis ever occurs. We live in a world where news, even false news, can be instantaneously shared with millions of individuals. In this digitally driven environment, it is far too easy for a slight public relations mistake to become a public relations disaster. Investing in crisis management and crisis communications is a necessary step to help CEOs prepare for an inevitable crisis. Through early preparation and planning, CEOs can more easily earn back the trust and confidence of employees, stakeholders, customers, and the general public if a crisis does occur.
- CEOs should become active members of the crisis management team. — To quote John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” In other words, a CEO cannot handle a crisis on his or her own. Even the best CEO will need the help of the crisis management team to effectively resolve a crisis. As such, a CEO should take the time needed to become an active member of the crisis management team. Becoming an active member will require a CEO to participate in crisis management exercises with their executive team and board of directors. When corporate crisis strikes, the CEO, executive team, and board of directors will know their individual roles, as well as the role of the crisis communications team. In this vein, a skillful crisis communications team should work with the CEO to issue the initial statement to the press, respond via the various social media channels and follow-up on the long-term response plan.
- CEOs should gather valuable lessons learned from other CEOs. — There are countless examples of CEOs who have not properly handled crises. One popular example that comes to mind is Corey duBrowa, Senior VP of Communications for Starbucks, who simply tried to avoid responsibility by deleting his Twitter account when disaster struck with the company’s #racetogether campaign. Another recent example of poor crisis communication comes at the expense of former BP CEO Tony Hayward who in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that left 11 people dead, was quoted as saying that, he “would like his life back.” CEOs should review and learn from the mistakes of their peers as part of their active participation within the crisis management team. Through these valuable lessons learned, CEOs will be better prepared to handle a crisis when and if it occurs within their own organization.
The bottom line: preparation is key to successful crisis management
Just as an athlete prepares for fierce competition, so too must a CEO actively prepare for a corporate crisis. From establishing a notification system that will allow CEOs to rapidly communicate with stakeholders and employees, to implementing a monitoring system or “command center” that gathers information that is vital before, during, and after a crisis response, CEOs should always plan ahead.
With proper preparation, CEOs can more successfully handle a crisis through effective and thoughtful communication that mitigates possible damages, while simultaneously presenting stakeholders, employees, and the general public with a strong corporate leader.
Can we help you?
Building an effective crisis management process that incorporates crisis management, crisis communications, and other functions within your firm is what we do here at Bryghtpath. Such a process can help you weather the storm when you encounter a significant issue.
Bryghtpath has built the crisis management plans and frameworks for many Fortune 500 organizations, non-profits, and public sector agencies. Our firm has more than a century of experience in developing actionable plans to help prepare organizations for the unexpected. Learn more about our approach to Crisis Management in our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management.