Top-10 Critical Concepts in Crisis Management Communications Now OnDemand 24×7
Executive Management Onsite and Online Course
Not if, but only when there will be another terrorist attack, corporate recall, weather disaster, nuclear meltdown and global biological plague.
By Thomas B. Cross CEO TECHtionary.com
To get a overview of this onsite or online webinar for your business, ondemand here 26-minutes on BrightTalk:
Top 10 Critical Concepts in Crisis Management
Communications Webinar Now OnDemand 7×24
Abstract: As we continue to remember 9/11, the world by all standards is not more stable but more terrorized but actually significantly more vulnerable than that fateful day. A crisis management solution is a series of online tools/apps designed to assist, guide, track and manage all corporate communications activities in a timely manner. While would like to think there is one term to describe responses in a crisis, there is not one type of crisis nor one word to cover all situations critical to any crisis communications. Increasingly even sadly fatal from in-persona, sabotage, espionage and cyberbullying, social networks are filled with toxic nonsense, mis and disinformation (anti-vaxers), weaponized media, shamers, haters, privacy violations, fake and deep fake which you cannot predict, you cannot react to all of this, you can only direct a strategy to manage personal and company messaging.
Here are the Top-10 reasons for acquiring and using a crisis management team as well as tools/apps as it is “not if but only when” will a crisis, disaster or terrorist attack. Here are the Top-10 Critical Concepts presented: Communications, Context, Contact, Collaboration, Connections, Consistency, Channels, Compliance, Cynchronicity and Customers. This 30-minute webinar will review, navigate and provide actionable tools to help you manage the upcoming crisis coming to you and your business.
1 – Communications – is about how we communicate with one another. The saying that “communications will always fail except by chance” is more than just a passing saying, it reflects that we often say things that may mean a lot to us but don’t have any meaning to anyone else. One of tenets of crisis communications is that the sender communicates in a meaningful and sincere way. That sounds easy, however, given language, cultural, ethnic, geographic and other differences, having messages ready that address these differences is important. That is, people can communicate in their own style of writing and other forms and users hear what they want to hear.
Certainly, the internet provides the ability to easily upload video files, crisis responses should “show” not just tell their communications can do that as well. In fact, many of the millions of videos on various internet sites are really just product demonstrations or explanations of ideas. Your corporate Library can also be the long-term repository/archive for corporate videos which should also have “baked” videos anticipating the various types of disasters that could occur. That is, be ready with types of crisis communications in corporate videos. Examples of internet corporate videos is where an executive wants to give an update, a manager presents an idea, a developer wants to explain some specific term or internal software feature, investor relations wants to present quarterly reports or HR on an internal policy matter. Within internal corporate communications, there are a number of key communication patterns or styles such as: customer communications, social media, public relations (PR), internal, human resources (HR), investor relations (IR) and regulatory. Each of these activities has their own Events (type of task, activity, communications and marcom initiative). Each of these Events, as we call them, have a myriad of often very specific communications which, if improperly worded or phrased can lead to serious litigation, PR nightmare and worse loss of customer confidence.
2 – Context – without context nearly all communications would be useless. The term cat may be understood by you but if you only understand Korean maybe not without a visual reference. One of the many numerous marketing communications catastrophes was of a company who used the term “Adds Life” to their beverage slogan. When translated into one eastern language, it came out the beverage “Brings Back the Dead.” While quite humorous now, it certainly was a complex contextual communications challenge to the company who then needed to rethink their strategy. What this means as marcom experts need to design not only the communication or message with the distribution mediums as well as the context of how and where it will be used. Various types of crisis communications and context of various types of messages can be saved, studied, reviewed and evaluated, then translated as needed and then market tested before wider distribution.
The context of the pitcher and the batter are both in context of the throwing and hitting and if you don’t know what either is supposed to do the ball is irrelevant. Crisis communications is all about communicating within the context of the viewer or audience. Crisis responses must, to be effective, put the message into the mind of the viewer or reader and must engage them into action. Recently we have been engaged in developing a number of crisis response plans; however, what the client did not understand was that crisis communications needs to engage action and ultimately empathy for your crisis. Seldom is there an understanding between corporate communications and crisis communications, however both need to be both all about action and rather than passive activity such as “waiting for the storm to blow over” before doing anything. For crisis communication to bridge that gap you must integrate the “all hands” in the process focusing their specific job functions into their own thinking and create “actionable” results such as “call now we are here to help.” Crisis communications often abhor being perceived as in the role of PR people, however, one of the most pressing questions asked today, does social media bring help or hinder in a changing the results of a crisis? If the answer is no, then social media is of no value other than as a gossip, political or humorous exercise. Bottom line for all crisis communications as well as everything else in the enterprise is it has to work together and “all hands” need be accountable for results. Understanding the context of that will also bring into focus the need for all marcom to be contextually-driven to achieve measureable results. With crisis management tool, all participants can get engaged in conversations on making all efforts achieve the desired results and the means to measure them.
3 – Contact – is not about a contact manager or rolodex but how and when you communicate with customers, legal, compliance and the myriad of others involved in any crisis communications group. Discussed later are specific activities called Connections, Contact Chain this is about the “chain links” of communications in your provider contact system. If it is a product recall, all the vendors (everyone you contract with) need a set of communications guidelines and processes to begin work, responds to every call/complaint, track the response and build toward never letting this happen again. Using crisis management communications tools all vendors as well as process and procedures can be maintained so team members can have quick access to vital information as well as update, post recommendations for other vendors, provide evaluations of current vendors and other pertinent information.
With the ability to have multiple blogs each team member can add comments, concerns and other topics about communications with all the different players. Individual or precise schedules can be built and then shared with all the relevant parties for completion.
4 – Collaboration-Conversations – collaboration is already an over-used word in business. Consensus and collaboration are closely related, however in the context (since we just discussed that) of this article, collaboration is about mechanics of communication and consensus is one type of collaboration. Collaboration sounds like a great concept but in reality, getting everyone “on the same page” like especially when law enforcement, health agencies and other regulatory bodies are involved coordinating their dance movements is really much harder than having merely having a concall. The positive effect on productivity of group decision making over individual decision making is well-documented for more than fifty years. A key point is that significant collaboration occurs before the crisis not during or afterward. Advantages include the availability of a greater range of experience than that held by any one individual, a more diverse set of intellectual approaches and capabilities, and a greater tendency to subject ideas to scrutiny and debate. The positive effects of group collaboration/interaction in the decision-making process include the following:
• Creative approaches to the task are more likely to be found, as are more creative solutions.
• There is more constructive criticism rather constructive suggestion, thus decreasing the likelihood of loopholes and future problems.
• The commitment of the group to resolving the task at hand is greater.
• Implementation of the decision is facilitated when personnel from different parts of the organization communicate to each other their needs, as well as understand and participate in the decision-making process.
For collaboration to be success different approaches need to be explored. Quite simply, with crisis communications tools provide for better-thought-out viewpoints and more precise arguments than in an ordinary face-to-face session are possible. In team building, concurrence or consensus building is also the process of gaining and maintaining concurrence of the members. Dissent is not often really tolerated by managers who think their way is the best way because they are the boss. Collaboration suggests that by creating the digital means for collaboration that consensus will automatically emerge. Just by providing the technology such as web conferencing, video telepresence and other networking tools does not at all, lead to consensus. Probably the most innovative contribution of crisis communications apps, in fact, is its ability to structure group communication in such a way that many people can reach one mutually agreed-upon decision in an efficient manner. Without being too academic, crisis collaboration and thinking requires an awareness of the larger context within which planning and decision-making occurs, an appreciation of the historical dimensions of a problem, an ability to take the long view, a realization of systems relationships within and beyond one’s organizational boundaries, a commitment to collaboration in crisis planning and decision-making, and an appreciation for paradoxical and counter-conventional ideas which often leads to both destructive as well as innovative thinking and solutions.
5 – Connections – are the step-by-step (hence the ballet group) or rather being “in step” activities leading up to or away from an event. One of the many steps in baking a cake is turning on the oven and having it at the desired temperature before placing it in the oven. Connections are the matrix of activities within an event. Cynchronicity, discussed in a moment, is about the timing of events, connections are about the multitude and myriad of crisis events. Never has it ever been that something was not forgotten or missed – should be tattooed on crisis communications staff. There is always something that someone forgot to do or bring. This is often the nightmare of many projects that it is the “little things” that are always the “got-ya’s.” This is not saying that crisis communications tools are a panacea; however, each event can have a checklist which can be easily viewed, checked and re-checked. This does not mean that people read the list and fail to remember something important or trivial; however, checklists can be easily maintained, updated and evaluated for future events. One key activity is to delete all social media accounts and build your own social network instead of all the toxic nonsense, mis and disinformation (anti-vaxers), weaponized media, cyberbullies, shamers, haters, privacy violations, fake and deep fake which you cannot predict, you cannot react to all of this, you can only direct your own messaging.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.”— Warren Buffett via Temin and Company for this quote on their website.
6 – Consistency – actually there are many environmental crisis’s in the form of tornados, hurricanes, fires, and others often repeated again and again. They are also often connected like the “gears” above from one to another. However, without some form of historical archive or database, projects can often repeat many of the same mistakes. Rather than always trying to remember about an Event or not remembering at all as the team member involved left the company, each crisis communications event can be reviewed, evaluated and metrics built both qualitatively in terms of often immeasurable concepts like user reaction and overall feeling. Also, quantitative values can be placed in the crisis management tool to provide the means for measuring the next event or other events. Consistency is used, however, if you prefer the term quality can be substituted. Crisis communications generally suffers because many activities lack, what in the telecommunications space is called Quality of Service (QoS) or QoE (Quality of Experience). That is, like the Fire Department, crises don’t occur on a scheduled basis and years may pass between them. Using crisis management tools/apps events can be designed around QoE/QoS and then measured against future crises or even past ones. From this vantage, responding to a crisis becomes an integral part of the corporate communications effort and then further metrics or even standards developed. A year ago, we built a concept called the OCI-Open Communications Interface model to measure and provide QoS for all job skills and performance. This model could be easily applied to crisis communications.
7 – Channels – many marcom events contain similar tasks such as press, video, print and other tasks. However, they are often viewed as unique events not comparable to others. This concept suggests like in QoS/QoE that detailed Event comparisons can be made and from that build better or different Events based on comparative analysis. It is unlikely or necessary that all Events be scrutinized this way; however, the most common comment often heard from executive management was “where are the real results.” Marketing often lacks the resources, know-how or time to develop specific return on investment (ROI) models because they can’t compare one crisis with another or even one crisis. Using crisis management tools/app each crisis can be duplicated as a backup or for repetition purposes but also to compare against or model with new or proposed crisis communications scenarios. All too often, in today’s social media driven world, people “well we will just Twitter/Facebook a response.” This is just asking for more trouble because you are suggesting that these tools are good tools for all events. Often in a corporate crisis, lives are at risk, deaths may have occurred and others may still be missing.
8 – Compliance – IP-Intellectual Property, Privacy and Legal/Regulatory issues – Having a legal team well-versed in social media communications is obvious. However, remember unless customers are lawyers, just blathering legal messages may do more harm than good. Giving people cars does not mean they know how to drive, quite the reverse, people will have accidents even with driver training. Crisis communications is far more elusive than automobile driver training. People think they communicate and often do a lot of it but rarely does it even get understood much less facilitating the situation where consensus can be built. Using crisis management tools/apps are good ways to provide for widely dispersed groups and for consensus building around an event, idea or even everyday work problem such as office space. Some tools also simplify an inherently difficult task: reaching a consensus among several persons in a fairly short period of time. Corporate compliance and discovery is not just for the larger businesses but for all businesses. Tracking content distribution and protecting brand against hackers, staff conversations and reviewing business agreements is all part of having company IP-intellectual property.
Here is one small example of legal issues. Discovery, the process of gathering information in litigation (either in writing or orally), is established and controlled by Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, specifically 26(b)(1). Remember, this does not necessarily mean the information being sought (discovered) must be legally relevant…that is a battle to fight down the road. In the Largent, the plaintiff was alleging she had extensive physical injuries that were “serious and severe”, yet there were picture posts on her Facebook page showing her “enjoying life with her family and a status update about going to the gym”. The plaintiff argued that this information posted on her Facebook page was irrelevant and would cause “unreasonable embarrassment and annoyance”. She also argued that the defense counsel’s request was violating privacy laws such as the Stored Communications Act of 1986 (SCA). Ultimately, the Court decided that the information on her Facebook page was discoverable and ordered her to give the login information to defense counsel. The Court determined that the plaintiff put her mental and physical health at issue in her damages claim, therefore meeting the threshold requirement and opening the door to that discovery request. She posted several photographs of her with her family that “undermined her claims of physical and mental pain”. Additionally, the Court did not find a violation of the SCA as there is no protection offered to Facebook or its users by SCA. This is clearly a case of fraud and another example of a type of crisis that needs to be addressed. Practically, you don’t have time to respond in a crisis to all the legal issues you should have review before the crisis. It’s not just about legal protection, it’s about protecting customers from you as well as treating customer fraud with the same speed and intensity.
9 – Cynchronicity (pronounced like synch-ron-icity) – is the timing of the communications. It’s a term invented to mean more than synchronicity (a coincidental occurrences of a-causal events – see Wikipedia). Time is the only common value to everything, hence the need for a time-based tool such as crisis management apps. Calendars are great tools and we each have them for personal users. Shared calendars can be useful but often lack the tools to make them more than just “time clocks” for tasks. Various apps adds a wide range of features and icons for visual reinforcement of the specific types of Events that marcom often uses. Cynchronicity is also about the ways we use time. Time is more than just a stream of events but a lot of parallel times that all come together in a specific Event. Cynchronicity is the means to understand all the different timeframes that exist and build a comprehensive crisis communications calendar to bring all “time” together in one place.
10 – Customer – customer and customer – it is now and will always be about the customer. Aside from the legal issues, regulatory fines, press disaster; the most important response in a crisis is to the customer. I put this one last because you need to be armed and ready with all the other issues before being to develop a comprehensive customer communications crisis response. The simplest way to understand customer is that if you are not talking during the crisis, being with, helping with your customers, your competitors, customers, press and the world will be. Or worse, customers will do nothing, not buy anything, think ill-will of you or and the absolutely worse possibility is to not think about you at all. If you don’t know anything about your customer or would-be customer, then go ask them and not, as a focus group, just as individual people. Rather, ask them as individual unique and most-valued people as well, not just customers. What do they like, dislike, want improved upon and what-when they want to buy next? Everything that follows in this paper “circles back,” intersects or crosses back to the customer. The process is to really understand not through a series of True-False, Multiple Question or even focus groups, what the customer is saying. You will often be surprised to find the difference between what they tell you what they mean is often completely different. I have personally found this to be true more times than not. Oddly in a thought leadership world, we often forget that the real thought leaders are our customers. The media and writers are just the Jimmy Olsen’s reporting the news back to Perry White and hopefully reporting accurately. However, what thought leadership in a crisis could also be is something also of my own persuasion; you cannot react to trends, you cannot predict them either, you must direct your customers to your own crisis strategy. During a crisis responding to and communicating with customers should reflect also the way products should be built to begin with. That is, as just mention you don’t have the time or resources to respond to all the ways and what customers are saying about you. So, anticipate you will have a crisis before it happens. Many others epitomize this in the way their listen and build but also extend their products as to where they both want the customer to go and also the customer wants to go there already. Therefore, truly great thought leadership is a thorough understanding, almost reading the mind of the customers and then building a platform on which to create successful solutions for them. As a result, you will become the thought leader they look to, listen to and want more from before, during and after a crisis.
Summary – Crisis is always being prepared for the worst possible circumstance and in reality it will always be worse than you planned for. This executive management seminar is to get you ready for the worst and then some.
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