We turn today, which at least at this early stage seems devoid of a major crisis, to urge that this is when you need to think about the crisis to come.
Murphy’s Law of crisis management states: You will have a crisis. It will happen when you least expect it. It will hit where and when you are most vulnerable. You will only survive if you prepared.
A crisis is defined as a serious threat to your or your company’s reputation and is measured by its duration, not its initial drama and intensity. Crises begin when you cannot run business as usual and fades when you return to business as usual.
Now is the time to plan, to prepare your team for the crisis over the horizon. The investment you’d make is relatively small and the ROI is huge. Reputation damage from a crisis can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair, not to mention lost sales, worried employees shifting careers to competitors and increased regulatory and board scrutiny. Crisis training is usually below six figures.
Find a crisis management agency with the chops for your size and category of business, the real-world experience to guide you and then listen to what its experts say.
Now, when it’s calm, is the time to decide who will speak for the company in crisis. Now, when it’s calm, is the time to define and assemble the key members of a crisis management team. Now, when it’s calm, is the time to determine who might have to travel or what communications methods are best. Now, when it’s calm, is when you should create a “black site” web page that during a crisis you can drop over your home page to communicate strictly about that crisis. Now, when it’s calm, is when you define how to communicate internally during a crisis as well as externally with media.
Don’t waste your time, when it’s calm, trying to define your crisis or determine in advance what smelly swamp it might emerge from to shake your business to its core. The possibilities are endless. Crises range from CEO malfeasance and the death of a key person, to product liability, natural disasters, power outages and social media wildfires that may or may not be true.
Do you think the Mitt Romney campaign predicted that a May video of a private fundraiser in Florida would hijack the national agenda for 10 days? No, but it reacted quickly and gets good marks for putting Romney out in public with strong messaging. He may still lose the race because of it, but his campaign team reacted quickly and decisively to detour the stampede.
The old Boy Scouts motto, “be prepared,” rings truest here. Act. Now.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.