As the panel noted during the session, crisis planning should be an insurance plan, but to what extent should companies spend to prepare for the worst? Further, how should other resources (personnel, etc.) be allocated when it comes to crisis planning? And finally, how do we get leadership buy-in/prove that resources should allocated to securing a firm like Judy’s?
Judy: I view myself as a strategic advisor and counselor to general counsel, CEOs, and senior executives within the organization. It’s important to have someone who can provide advice and strategic counsel on a wide array of issues. The companies that we work with, which retain our services on a regular basis, look to us to provide ongoing advice and counsel, but if there’s a crisis along the way, we are there to help. People need to look at crisis more broadly — you don’t just need to have someone there in case something happens. It’s most important to have an advisor who knows you and your business on hand to advise, and counsel you on how to avoid crisis in the first place, as well as navigate issues as they arise. There is real value in having those professionals on hand.
Wouldn’t you prefer to pay for ongoing advice and counsel to help avoid crisis as opposed to when a crisis happens? When there can be legal liability or financial issues, as well as public exposure? We often know what issues are bubbling up in our industry and organizations, therefore it makes sense to figure out ways to address and manage those potential issues before they become crisis. We can help with that.
Mahrukh: There are many things that a company can do to prepare for a crisis that don’t cost much; if anything. For example, a company can identify the critical members of a crisis team in advance, define “crisis,” run through mock crisis examples, etc. It may also be wise to meet some crisis management experts, like Judy, during a quiet time and allow them to explain what value they can add.
Shawn: It is going to depend on your organization and what I call your risk profile. If you are in an environmental industry like oil and gas, or energy, the risk has the potential to be catastrophic. Meaning, there could be personal injury or loss of life, something devastating. That’s the worse case scenario. But say your organization is a service provider, an accounting or consulting firm — what are your risks there? They are likely not catastrophic, but there could be risk of financial loss, or even brand and reputational losses. You’re always going to hit that brand piece, it’s just at what level is it going to be impacted.
When you think about developing your crisis communications strategy, you really have to think about where are your risks and try to plan for them. Also, remember your unforeseen crisis, like COVID. I never thought that a pandemic would affect my work or my clients, therefore you also have to manage to what you know and you can envision. Be nimble enough to pivot for crisis that you can’t see coming. Getting the resources will depend on your structure and industry. You won’t need full-time crisis people, for example, if you are not in a high-risk industry. But think about your current personnel and whether they have the necessary skills for a crisis situation.
The panel mentioned that social media moves quickly and that companies should also consider preemptively taking brand-enhancing steps to bank good will. Are there concrete examples of what companies may be able to do on social media platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn?
Judy: Companies post all the time when they are doing good and positive things on social media, which is always positive. They also share with their employees, who do so as well. Authenticity on social media is key. Companies who focus on promotional social media marketing, struggle to pivot in the midst of a crisis. To avoid appearing inauthentic and to help enhance brand perception, we advise our clients to consistently highlight positive moments and relevant CSR initiatives across their social channels.
Some companies use platforms like LinkedIn to highlight employees, internal initiatives, etc. that provide insight into the company and its leadership. For example, Aflac has a LinkedIn #CSRHero video series that highlights employees for their role in furthering the companies mission.
You also see companies like Starbucks post content on relevant days celebrating and highlighting social good. Take for example, this Instagram photo and story posted as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.