Editor: What do you think the crisis communications priorities will be for 2019?
Philippe: The link between reputation management and data security is clear now. A data breach is a well-documented operational risk and should be managed as such. Integrating crisis preparedness in the company “culture” is paramount.
I for one, recommend that adequate attention be made to internal communications and change management. All too often, the first knee jerk reaction tends to be to communicate externally. As specialists we understand that internal communications is a prerequisite to good crisis communications management.
At the same time, embedding preparedness in the day to day operations of a company is the best investment organisations can make today.
In 2019 we expect to see a much-needed increase in focus on crisis preparedness and training. Having witnessed the debacles involving Facebook, Marriot Hotels and others, companies will (finally) invest in realistic scenario simulations and update their plans.
Crisis management’s “usual suspects” (fire, floods etc…) will still need to be included in training of course, but we will hopefully start to see data security being taken into account in crisis simulation scenarios.
The need for realistic real-time crisis simulations will grow, and more and more teams will go through mixed on- and off-line exercises. Simex (simulation exercise) tools can now replicate very realistic environments and give a good feel for the real thing. Immersive scenario-based training accelerates team experience, creates muscle memory and increases confidence and calmness.
Editor: So how do companies need to respond in order to thrive in a market where digital is both the top brand risk and also the top potential brand attribute?
Philippe: Crisis management teams should understand and take into account the speed of communications. The “golden hour” concept is not as applicable anymore. Unless internal communications can happen within 15 minutes and a first reactive statement can be issued in 30, companies are perceived as unresponsive. It all might look impossible but that’s where good crisis preparedness comes in.
Organisations need to invest in good stakeholder management. There’s a lot of marketing talk about working with “influencers” but this is also true for crisis communications. Having a network of people who are credible and can support the organisation during a crisis is important. They can play a crucial role in bringing context and nuance. We often see a certain degree of mis/disinformation during a crisis and these influencers can make a real difference.
Finally, having professional specialists on call is a pre-requisite. Nimble teams with real expertise that add skills and capabilitries to any internal crisis team on an “as need” basis can really make the difference. At the end of the day, in a networked world, using this approach only makes sense.
Philippe explores the digital era challenges in a great deal more detail in a white paper that he recently co-authored with Bill Mew – you can get a copy here.