Home > PR > Corp Comm Frets Leadership in Crisis Comms, says Study

Corp Comm Frets Leadership in Crisis Comms, says Study

Tripping on Words Senior Leaders as a Catalyst for Crisis Comms

What potential crisis could have a substantial impact on your business?  That’s the essence of crisis communications planning – preparing for the worst before it happens.

The typical things that come to mind, at least in the B2B tech sectors, might range from data breaches to product recalls and from acts of nature to tragic accidents, but research out of the UK adds one more thing: upper management.

Igniyte, a UK-based PR firm, commissioned a study of 508 managers finding, “40% of UK managers surveyed cite their higher management team as the biggest risk to a PR crisis.”

As if convincing management of the need for, and value of, crisis planning wasn’t already a challenge! In many ways, PR is about diplomacy.

The common barriers to effective crisis planning I see are two-fold:

  1. justifying the value of updating plans and communications that may never be used against competing, and perhaps more pressing priorities; and
  2. foreseeing all the potential triggers.

According to this study, potential triggers ought to include potential comments and actions of executives.

“Just one ill-judged tweet from a key executive of a high-profile brand can bring the whole company into disrepute, or just one negative comment from a disgruntled ex-employee online can cause questions to be asked about how you treat your staff,” according to Simon Wadsworth, founder and director of Igniyte as cited by Communicate Magazine.

The value of crisis communications planning-600x

Corp Comm Unprepared for Crisis

The benefit of crisis communications planning often isn’t revealed until the heat of a crisis.  Thinking through ramifications in the heat of the moment is a pitfall sure to make things worse, and perhaps is also a contributing factor when leadership trips on words.

Yet there’s a sizable population in corporate communications that admit to lacking a plan.  This study found that 17% said their company didn’t even have a crisis management plan, while 10% “said they didn’t think their company was well prepared for a crisis.”

Twenty plus years in the military taught me composite risk management is composed of two variables – the likelihood something will happen and the severity of impact if it does.

To that end, I’m a bit at a loss for the 7% delta between those two figures.  If you don’t have a plan, how can you possibly be prepared?

As for management, it’s worthwhile to invest in classical media training before a crisis occurs.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Crisis Comms:  No one More Reliable than an Employee

Photo credit: Flickr, Chris Connelly, Skyscraper (CC BY 2.0)

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