Don’t let your Christmas turn into a Crisis
By Saskia Clapton and Shannan Robinson
The Christmas trees are up and I bet you can’t turn a corner in town without hearing yet another wholesome (and some which aren’t so wholesome) Christmas song, meaning it’s officially ‘That Time of the Year’ again. The last mad dash to the finish line is upon us, before we all succumb to our respective office Christmas parties and celebrate all that we’ve accomplished this year (and commiserate everything we didn’t).
For that reason, the end of the year tends to be one of our busiest times, and crisis management, much like going to the dentist, can be something that many companies tend to forget about or avoid until they either:
a) can’t put it off any longer without risking governance issues, or
b) discover that their teeth are now full of cavities and they need $20,000 worth of dental work to try and fix it. Whoops.
It’s a cliché that everyone has a million and one things on their ‘to do’ lists, and it’s difficult to put ‘crisis management’ near the top of your priorities (especially if you’re not actually going through a crisis), but as PwC’s 2019 Global Crisis Survey points out, “it’s not ‘if’ you experience a crisis. It’s when.” In fact, they discovered that nearly 69% of leading organisations worldwide have experienced at least one corporate crisis in the last five years, and nearly all of the survey respondents expected to be hit by one in the future.
Those statistics don’t mean we should all walk around in full body armour and have security cameras installed underneath the toilets, but rather, like the dentist, the better way to approach crisis management is to have regular check-ups and make sure that your company maintains a healthy level of preparedness, so that you’ll know exactly what to do when that next toothache comes on.
So, how exactly does one maintain a healthy level of crisis preparedness? Well, the nitty gritty of it will differ depending on the size and type of company (which, conveniently and completely incidentally, we can help you with). But as a little Christmas present, and with some help from Crisis Management Guru, Melissa Agnes, we’ve compiled some basic ground rules for you which are crucial for any kind of crisis.
People are the priority. Always.
Successful crisis management requires effective action and communication to happen simultaneously.
A mistake can be forgiven. The appearance of a cover-up will not be.
The more you think you don’t need a crisis ready program, the more desperately you DO need one.
One poor statement (or tweet) can undermine an entire crisis management strategy.
Greater trust instilled with stakeholders gives you the merited benefit of the doubt at the onset of a crisis.
A legal strategy is vital to dealing with a crisis, but it is NOT the public face of your response.
No part of crisis preparedness or crisis management should happen in a vacuum.
Plans give you steps to follow; programs strengthen your culture.
No matter what happens to the ship, the captain is always responsible.
These are guidelines (with a few charming analogies added in), but they make up the basic foundations of crisis management and resilience. Follow these golden rules and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining that winning smile for years to come.
Of course, it’s also important to remember that even if you keep your company in tip-top fighting shape and put in place every preventative measure known to humankind, there’s really nothing you can do to stop a crisis from happening. 2019 has proven to be no exception to the rule, with global political unrest and economic uncertainty creating a ripple effect throughout organisations big and small – PwC alone analysed over 4,500 crises worldwide this year.
There’s no need for a crisis to be all doom and gloom though – on the contrary, it can be the perfect opportunity to test your structural resilience and even grow as a company (PwC states that 42% of their survey respondents were actually in a better place post-crisis)!
Can’t picture it? Let’s take a look at some of our own case studies from the past year and see who won the gold star (and who got the wooden spoon award):
Opal Tower – Bad communication with stakeholders, finger-pointing and going immediately on the offensive against the media without thoroughly fact-checking were just some of the things which made this crisis escalate out of control. As Melissa Agnes states, ‘people should always be above process’, and in this case, it seems like they weren’t even on the radar.
British Airways – BA had a slow start (despite having plenty of time to prepare), with little response to customer queries initially and mass confusion with wrong information sent out to the wrong customers. However, they came back strong by ringing in extra support staff for their call centres (who literally had to deal with half a million phone calls) and posting an incredibly accessible and simple to understand strike information page up on their official website. Even if you fumble the ball in the first quarter, it’s important to remember that you can always bounce back.
Capital One – Breaking the news immediately themselves through senior spokespeople before misinformation could be spread and providing transparent, clear and consistent updates through a wide variety of channels quickly and efficiently turned what could have very easily been a bumpy ride into a smooth landing. Couldn’t have done it better ourselves.
The holidays are our time to relax, but for extra peace of mind it’s best to be prepared for when you come face to face with the worst-case scenario. Make sure you know where your crisis management team is going to be over the break and who can be contacted, and make sure that they have access to log in to their systems and support the best they can from wherever they happen to be.
Lastly, and all jokes aside, we hope you all have a safe and crisis-free Christmas, but if you do find that your business needs some support over the silly season, we’re just a call away.