Editor’s note: Geri Denterlein is CEO and founder of the strategic communications firm Denterlein. She recently conducted a presentation on crisis management to the AIM CEO Connection.
When a crisis breaks are you ready? It happens every day. You get the call:
- An employee has been seriously injured in one of your plants.
- A natural disaster has shut down production at a major facility.
- Workplace violence or a threat has forced the closure of a plant.
- Your employees are on strike.
- A major product has been recalled.
From an operations perspective, you may have contingency plans in place for a facility shutdown but has your team contemplated the reputational fall-out that will likely result? Who decides whether a situation has the potential to cause reputational damage to your company? And what’s the plan when the answer is: “Yes, it does?”
Spontaneous, catastrophic events can bring production to a screeching halt, quickly and decisively decimating the bottom line and shaking the confidence of consumers, shareholders and distribution partners. In a rapidly changing economy where 90 percent of executives say reputation risk is a key business challenge, the perception of your brand remains closely tied to consumers’ decisions to buy or invest.
“Because of … the internet and globalization, the dominoes of the supply chain are now very close together – and the closer they are, the faster they fall,” says Arash Azadegan, PhD, a professor of supply chain procurement at Rutgers University.
If the unthinkable happens, how will you respond?
A communications plan can guide your company’s responses during a crisis, mitigating the impact on reputation. Being prepared before a situation engulfs your organization can help to ensure consistent messaging and orderly, proactive distribution of critical (often sensitive) information to stakeholders, including employees, distribution partners, shareholders and the media. Advanced planning also ensures that if and when a crisis occurs, you can respond quickly and with some level of transparency, authenticity and accountability.
The collapse of the newspaper industry and rise of social media has transformed the way Americans get their news. Public expectations during a crisis have changed along with it. While leaders of the pre-digital age had the luxury of time to gather all of the facts and formulate a plan – those of today do not. The popularity of social media and Twitter, in particular, makes the demand for immediate information paramount. But facts alone are not enough. Consumers also expect sincerity and some level of accountability.
Ignore any one of these tenants at your own peril.