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  • Rand Pearsall, GPS

Why Crisis Management is Harder than it Looks

A couple of years ago, Orlando Herrera posted a good article about Chipotle’s e-coli crisis. But I not only disagree with one point, I believe it unintentionally leaves the wrong impression and may increase the threat level of any crisis:

"Setting up a Crisis Management Team is not terribly difficult"

Perhaps naming a team is not difficult; but having a team that functions well under pressure and follows all of the right steps is exceedingly difficult. Industrial companies invest a lot of money in consultants to help guide this process. Even with full-day simulations, it is amazing to see how many things go wrong. Something as simple as releasing the first public statement is easily botched.

Other companies have great plans but these plans exist in a dusty notebook on the shelf in a lot of offices.

Many of these plans do not take into account the redundancy that is needed. If I am the lead communications person but I am in another country on the day the crisis hits - and if another key person on my team is on a plane – a lot of roles have to shift, quickly.

Also, as far as naming a team goes, some people may simply not be good at a task regardless of their corporate title. A company may have an excellent CEO who is accomplished at many things. But this CEO may be the wrong person to put in front of the press (beyond an initial statement) if they are not highly skilled in media relations or if they have a tendency to go “off script”.

Effective crisis management requires consistent training to build muscle memory, learn the gaps in your plan (they do exist), and identify/utilize a deep bench of people that can manage a variety of tasks at a very high level. There is no margin for error and in today’s social media world, first impressions count more than ever.

The very best companies understand crisis management is a top priority. Brand value and reputation depend on getting it right. When was the last time your organization ran a crisis simulation? How well did you implement the lessons learned into your plan?  Are you ready?

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