Influencing leaders in a crisis

Crisis planning starts from the top down, and you can never be too prepared. Crisis management is the management of choices at a turning point and, simply put, crises are defining moments for leaders. Crisis experts must know how to make sure clients have what they need to shine in that moment. To be successful, you must have an understanding of how a particular leader thinks and the steps they must take to preserve their personal and organizational brands.

The leadership mindset

Every crisis is a business problem before it is a communication problem. It is impossible to communicate your way out of a business problem. Before you ever think about what you should say, you must help leaders understand the root cause. When you strategically think about solving business problems, preventing likely risks and driving results, you have a better chance of developing strategies and tactics that support corporate goals and objectives.

Here are some questions to ask to help solve the business problem and think like the C Suite.

  • What happened?
  • What needs to be solved or fixed?
  • Is anyone hurt or impacted?
  • How does this impact who we are and what people expect of us?
  • What actions and approach do we take?
  • What can we commit to – and then say?

Executive orientation to communications is about addressing risk first. To diminish risk, have a clear idea of the issues. Here are some of the more common considerations:

  • Litigation
  • Employee issues
  • Labor issues
  • Financial issues (disclosure)
  • Business disruption (recalls/product failures)
  • Environmental supply chain
  • Security (data breach, IT theft, workplace violence)
  • Physical and natural disasters

This is not an exhaustive list but it should help you frame up the types of risks to discuss with leadership.

Issue management

Once you have identified likely risks and issues that need to be address, plan to address each. Here are six steps to get you started.

  1. Identify issues
    (Social, technological, economic, environmental, political)
    Conduct a mini SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on each
  2. Rank and prioritize
    Brief description of issue
    Potential financial impact
    Probability/likelihood of occurrence
    Ability to influence
    Does it restrict business unit’s license to operate?
    Is it a reputation risk
    Does it affect the organization/company only?
    If not, who else does it impact?
    What is the risk of doing nothing?
    Identify key stakeholders
  3. Analyze stakeholders
    Who do you need to partner with?
    Who do you need to the have regular dialogue with?
    Who do you need to monitor? Do they have influence to create “noise”?
  4. Plan how to deal with them
    Once issues are being monitored, priorities have been clarified and stakeholders are known, someone has to be in charge or responsible.
    Identify and prioritize your team using the RASCI model
    Responsible – Who is the owner?
    Approval – Who has the authority on the final decision?
    Support – Who is doing the heavy lifting?
    Consultant(s) – Who will be consulted, however, advice may or may not be used
    Inform – Who receives courtesy communication
    Resources required beyond RASCI – Any resources needed beyond internal staff
  5. Implement
    Be agile, be focused and be aligned. The world is dynamic so you must be able to adjust. Be sure to stay focused on the goals. Resources and capabilities need to be aligned.
  6. Evaluate
    Did you achieve your goals?
    Did you communicate effectively?
    What lessons were learned?
    What would you have done differently?

Having the appropriate agency or consultants will ensure your engage leadership properly as you create, manage and lead your crisis communication efforts. If you need assistance, let us know. We will be happy to guide you through the process.

In my next blog post, we’ll focus more on operational readiness and establishing an effective crisis response team and process.

Author: Chuck Norman, APR
Chuck Norman is our Owner & Principal.

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