It often seems that businesses and organizations are in denial when it comes to crisis communications. They tend to fear taking the scary step of getting company leaders and stakeholders in a room to brainstorm for worst-case scenarios. But if they do, they may just find out they’re much better prepared to handle a crisis when it comes along.
Now they have a place to start with their risk management team – but they still need help with the communications directions.
The British risk management association Airmic recently commissioned the Cass Business School to investigate the impact of 18 high-profile corporate crises over the last decade. Roads to Ruin - A Study of Major Risk Events: Their Origins, Impacts and Implications looks at the incidents and what could be done to prevent these crises and manage their consequences.
“The case studies outlined in Roads to Ruin consist of some of the world’s biggest organisations, with the risk events having considerable, often catastrophic, impacts on these organisations. In seven cases the companies faced bankruptcy. In eleven cases the Chairman and /or CEO lost their roles and a huge number of executive and non-executive directors lost their jobs. Roads to Ruin identifies key flaws within these organisations’ risk management that significantly contributed to these events,” says Airmac’s Mark Taylorson.
I didn’t purchase the whole report – just downloaded the executive summary. Interestingly, communications played a very small role, just showing up in one category:
"Defective Internal Communication: Risks from the defective flow of important information within the organisation, including up to board level."
Certainly, internal communications is important. But risk managers really need to be aware of the impact of external communications when they are considering crisis scenarios and developing the management plans to address them.
Keeping external communications professionals in the loop when it comes to crisis management plans is vital to success. They’re able to:
- Develop messaging that’s consistent with both internal and external audiences.
- Question decisions made without considering external audiences.
- Provide expertise in dealing with the media.
- Take a long-term look at the impact on company brand and reputation.
- Train spokespeople to deliver effective messages.
The Road to Ruin report offers a few recommendations, including this:
“The role and status of risk professionals will have to change so that they can safely evaluate, report and discuss all they find on these underlying risks at all levels, including at board level.”
No kidding! Part of that change must include effective communications with communications professionals to help manage those nasty bumps they’ll find along the way.