As I look back over the year and reflect on crisis management and crisis communications, I have come to a resounding, and somewhat worrying conclusion: it remains remarkable how infrequently people and organisations learn from their mistakes and how few organisations are sufficiently prepared for when things go wrong.
It remains, to my mind, very apparent that many major corporations are simply still not taking preparation for a crisis seriously – or if they are, they are then ignoring what’s been learned and “winging it”. When you watch how they manage the response both in terms of handling the media and communications, and of the management of the crisis itself, it stands out a mile if an organisation has got good procedures in place and staff have undergone training.
There have been many instances where simple guidance like practising the concept of ‘Pity, Praise and Promises’ when talking to the media, for example, would have saved a number of senior executives, and vastly reduced the attacks upon them and their organisations. There can be no doubt that good crisis management enhances reputation and demonstrates that you have a resilient and well-prepared company. Given the opportunity to prepare properly, why would you not do that?
However, not all organisations are leaving it to chance: we have seen more and more exercising taking place this year. Many of our clients with mature crisis management plans have undergone simulations to stretch their staff and allow them to get the feel of just how complex, fast-moving and stressful managing and supporting a crisis response can be. There is simply no better way to do this than by running a simulation, during which you face every facet of the communication and decision-making problems that will appear in a real crisis. Everyone leaves them with a huge sense of achievement and a heightened realisation of the value of being ready and well prepared.
2012 certainly supported the idea that we are facing ever-increasing numbers of crises in the corporate world. Natural disasters seem to be becoming more and more frequent and their impact reach deeper and wider as a result globalised supply chains. At the same time new technologies and social media are making organisations ever more accountable, and are raising consumer expectations of transparency and speed of reaction. Hopefully 2013 will see further engagement by businesses in developing their own executive crisis management, which is where one of the greatest weaknesses seems to lie.
We launch the first UK conference devoted to strategic crisis management in London this coming May. Our goal is to raise the profile of this much under-valued capability, and bring together the wider resilience agenda to better protect your brand, people, reputation and profit.