crisis prCrisis PR: the killer

This past week two clients have been threatened, one overtly and one implied. One is a threat of a negative media story and the other the threat of being negatively named in parliament. The fear for both clients is that their reputations and incomes will be damaged.

Fear can kill our chances of emerging on the upside of a crisis. It makes board’s and CEOs timid, resolve dissolves, and what starts out as an apparently firm strategy becomes shaky. It is of course what their opponents want, that they will back off; hence the threat.

That is why an important attribute for a crisis leader is a thick skin; the leader has to provide sufficient confidence to hold everyone unerringly to the crisis plan, and probably one that’s been developed in the scary early stages of the crisis. Despite our protests very few companies undertake crisis preparation and rehearsals.

And a leader needs to be quite analytical when developing a plan. There is no value in developing a plan that’s beyond the capacity of the organisation. The six attributes we use to judge the strengths and weaknesses in a plan – and fear can undermine any of them – are:

  • Unity and strength of the leadership
  • Clarity in messaging
  • Strong spokespeople
  • Simplicity – the 80/20 rule; focus on the big issues
  • Nimbleness
  • Resourcing (time, people, budget)

Cool heads can be confident that if you chart a course based on correct values and an acceptable position, and deliver on those 6 attributes, your reputation goes up. And if you want to test the above, think of your preferred political party and see how they are performing against those 6 attributes.

Crisis PR: what saves

Preparation saves a crisis. Some of our clients rehearse every six months, with a crisis desktop exercise. Other companies with lower risk appetites, like airlines, rehearse almost continuously.

Hard work can save a crisis. Very uncool in an era that applauds creativity and work/life balance, but true. There’s a revealing article, which got me thinking about this post, about 16 people who’ve made heaps of money. Their corny secret? Insane working hours. It’s worth a read.

Again, we see it all the time in politics. Leading a successful government requires indefatigable persistence. Likewise, in business a hardworking board, CEO and tireless spokesperson will likely.

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