The siren song of crisis management is to train for and establish a crisis plan before a crisis hits.
Any crisis manager will tell you that for every call he or she receives from a client who wants to create a crisis plan when there is no crisis, they receive 10 from clients bogged down in the midst of one, desperate for help.
It’s with those thoughts in mind that an interesting survey of corporate responsibility came my way, thanks to EMA Senior Partner Sandy Gingerich. Its findings are more reinforcing than surprising, but they demand company leaders’ attention.
Most recently we’ve seen the Volkswagen scandal; a new CEO jacking up the price of a prescription drug; General Motors’ ignition deaths; the Sony email hacking and many others.
The survey, by Just Capital, concludes that Americans want their corporations to be better citizens, to improve ethically, not to shave so many corners.
The findings are overwhelming in a polling context. These aren’t 30 or 40 percenters. The conclusions come from all income groups and detail that nearly 80 percent say they would buy from more ethical corporations, invest in them and work for them.
Asked to identify elements of corporate justice, people’s top choices were good employee pay and benefits, satisfied workers alongside fair hiring practices and products or services that have a strong impact on society. A majority of the 43,000 respondents agreed that businesses should not pay rock-bottom wages, and that those wages were not justifiable.
The lesson herein, then, is that consumers want more ethical corporations, will shift their buying and investments accordingly, and that maintaining and improving a corporate reputation likely involves preparing for the worst — before it strikes.
Because the damage a crisis exerts is not tied to its severity or initial drama, but to its duration. GM has gone years with this ignition problem pulling down sales and profits; Volkswagen faces years of scrutiny, criminal investigations and fines.
Preparing in advance for effectively reacting to such crippling events can only help the ethical corporation.
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 and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.