Today’s crisis realities present some of the biggest challenges and obstacles to be faced in a crisis or emergency. In fact, if you aren’t prepared, today’s crisis realities will work against you, rather than for you, in a crisis – making your task of effective crisis management extremely difficult.
So what are today’s crisis realities and what do they mean to your organization?
Today’s crisis realities are…
Everything is public
There is no more such thing as a regional crisis. No matter where your crisis strikes today it will be written about, shared and discussed online. This reality makes the reach of every crisis instantly global.
Today’s news cycle is 24/7
Once upon a time, when a crisis struck, organizations had time to gather the facts and create a statement, so long as they met the deadline for the evening news. Nobody waits for the 6 o’clock news anymore – not even the news stations! Today’s news cycle is 24/7 real-time, which means you have mere minutes to get your first response statement out if you want to become the narrative of your own crisis.
Not everyone fact checks
To make matters even more challenging, the rush for immediacy and to be the first to report on a story, and the fact that the news cycle is no longer solely comprised of journalists and reporters who work by the journalism code of ethics, but is also made up of citizen journalists, bloggers and the general public, means that facts don’t always get checked before they’re published (and potentially go viral).
Everything has viral potential
If your crisis is news worthy, relatable and has an emotional impact, it has a good chance of going viral – quicker than you can imagine. If images and/or videos are involved, than your chances of experiencing a viral crisis heighten significantly.
Every employee is a spokesperson for your organization
This is a lesson that far too many organizations experience the hard way. We’re even seeing it with hospital attendants from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who are being quoted in the media on the hospital’s ability (or inability) to handle the current Ebola crisis, even though they are not official spokespersons for the organization. Just because they are not official spokespersons doesn’t mean that they aren’t shaping perception with their words and stories – and perception is everything when it comes to an organization’s reputation.
What do these crisis realities mean to your organization?
All of these crisis realities present major challenges to your crisis management. These challenges include:
Getting ahead of the story
The longer it takes you to get ahead of the story, the more it will continue to spiral out of control and the longer it will take you to regain control of the crisis. Not a favorable situation to find yourself in.
Position your organization as the leading credible source of information within the crisis
This is one of your ultimate goals in the waking minutes of a crisis. When you position your organization as the credible source of information you:
- Become the narrative of your own crisis.
- Become the trusted source of information that feeds the media the information and facts for their articles and stories.
- Help eliminate rumors and speculation.
- Focus on strengthening / rebuilding the invaluable relationship you share with your stakeholders.
Meeting the demands and pressure of real-time communication
This is not just a demand of your stakeholders – all of them – but an expectation of your organization. It’s also an overwhelming challenge if you aren’t adequately prepared to meet this expectation. Not to mention that, if unmet, you will:
- Find yourself faced with a crisis within the crisis.
- Ruin the trust your key stakeholders had in your organization.
- Have a damn hard time effectively managing the crisis with your reputation still intact.
Regaining control of the crisis…
… in the least amount of time and with the least amount of long-term repercussions on your organization’s reputation and bottom line.
These are today’s crisis realities and the major challenges they automatically present to your organization’s crisis management
So if today’s crisis realities work against you, how can you be expected to effectively manage a crisis in real-time? The answer is in being prepared. Being prepared means:
- Identifying the many risks that threaten your organization’s reputation;
- Preventing the preventable crises (because the best form of crisis management is crisis prevention);
- Planning for the unpreventable risks and crises that leave you vulnerable;
- Putting strategic measures in-place that allow you to instantly communicate with all of your stakeholders, both internal and external, in real-time;
- Testing your plan and strengthening your team’s crisis management skills with regular crisis simulations;
- Making crisis prevention and crisis management a part of your corporate culture, rather than a manual to fall back on.
I won’t lie. It’s a daunting and complicated task, but one of the most important and intelligent things you can do for your organization if you care about its reputation and business longevity. Not to mention that crisis prevention (such as effective issues management) provides you with unique opportunities to augment your organization’s profitability. Want to learn why and how? Contact me and I’ll not only help you understand why, but my team and I will help you successfully achieve this.
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.