Crisis communications: failing to plan is planning to fail

He-who-fails-to-plan-isWhy every business needs a solid crisis communications plan

John F Kennedy once said that the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. While he was talking about the US economy, the same goes for crisis management in protecting corporate reputation. In today’s fast-paced world – marked by a 24-7 news cycle and the ubiquity of social media – it can start pouring in a heartbeat. Consumers have become extremely aware, vocal and connected, and so have become major agents in adding fuel to a crisis fire. And while the market will forgive a crisis, it will not forgive bad planning or botched responses. As recent examples have shown, a badly-managed crisis can wipe as much as a third off a company’s value.

This is why planning and preparing for eventual crises is critical in long-term reputation and business management. It is not an option. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

“He who fails to plan is planning to fail”
Sir Winston Churchill

Companies that underestimate the need for crisis communications planning often do so based on common misconceptions such as that crises come from without or that their top-notch PR teams are ready to deal with any eventuality.

The reality is very different. According to research from the Institute for Crisis Management, some three-quarters of all crises originate within a company. Almost 70% start as slow-burners which are allowed to escalate beyond control.

Having a strong PR team is no reason to go forego crisis communications planning. When a crisis breaks the PR team’s energies need to be fully and immediately focused on managing the crisis according to solid protocols, and not on improvising panicked responses. Strong crisis management requires the full engagement of company top executives, and this needs to be mapped out and planned for in advance. No PR team will be able to effectively manage a crisis if its own management is not on board. The case of former BP CEO Tony Hayward’s public pronouncements during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is a salutary lesson in this regard.

While preparing a solid communication plan is imperative to able to successfully manage a crisis, its value is much more than this. Comprehensive planning includes the auditing and analysis to identify and anticipate areas of concern and proactively address them before they escalate into fully-blown crises. It also includes upskilling senior executives and communications professionals to ensure they are armed and able to deal with a crisis should one break. In today’s world the stakes couldn’t be higher, and failing to comprehensively plan for a crisis is no better than planning to fail.

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FTI Consulting offers a full range of crisis preparedness services, including:
• Mapping and analysis
• Crisis preparedness auditing
• Crisis management planning
• Crisis simulation training, including live bespoke online crisis management training
• Spokesperson media training
• Real-time crisis monitoring and management

For further details, please contact George Candon: george.candon@fticonsulting.com

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