Why worry about your reputation?
All too often reputation management falls into the ‘important but not urgent’ sector of the four-square management matrix. And it’s so easy to see why. You have been in business for years, decades, even centuries without a problem, so why worry?
There are lots of case studies of how issues and crises affect businesses. All too often they occur at the most unexpected moments and chaos can ensue. Recent weeks have seen the food industry caught out by millions of eggs being identified as contaminated with pesticide. Evidence to date suggests the retailers were better prepared to clear shelves and handle customer enquiries than governments were. This is the latest in a long line of crises that stretch back over decades. Often the warning signs are there but businesses are too busy in the ‘urgent’ part of the matrix.
Protecting your reputation is not that difficult and can be summarised in four simple steps:
1. Identify risk
When industries review their health and safety requirements, hazards are identified and steps are taken to minimise risk. What most risk assessments and plans fail to recognise is the need for communication when systems fail, when human error overrides protocols or unexpected accidents happen. Who needs to know and who will handle communications? Without planning, the ‘headless chicken syndrome’ soon emerges!
With risks identified, your organisation can prepare. Issues or crisis management plans need to be comprehensive but digestible. There are, of course, some key issues to address. Who is in charge? Well-organised businesses will have an issues team on standby, each with a specific role. All team contact numbers (work, mobile, home) will be to hand along with those whose advice may be needed. You also need to gather essential facts. How long has the business been going? How many people do you employ? What is your turnover? And so on. Can you answer these off the top of your head? Lastly, remember to appoint a senior team member to keep the business running day-to-day while the emergency is handled.
Training sessions for the issues team is vital. It establishes rapport and trust, especially if the team includes external advisers. It highlights flaws in the processes as well as gaps in knowledge and skills. Running scenarios in real time will highlight why detailed preparation is essential. Well-devised scenarios will take you and your team into your worst nightmares but it means when the guano really hits the fan, it won’t seem so bad.
When the worst happens and you have worked through a crisis, it’s all too easy to breathe a sigh of relief and get on with business as usual. But effective crisis management is about learning. Put time aside and gather the team to review what worked well and where the gaps were. That way you will be even better prepared if lightning strikes twice!
Effective crisis management can seem very daunting and it’s easy to leave it for another day. The alternative is to bring in some expertise and extensive learning from dealing with previous issues to guide you through the process and ensure you’re prepared.
Hornbeam Consultant Geoff Dodgson has almost 30 years experience in helping clients prepare for crises. He has handled communications in a range of issues and is willing to spend time, without obligation, discussing how well prepared your business may be.
Contact us to discuss this topic in more detail and find out how we can help.