CGM blog – Don’t make a drama out of a crisis

rsz_cgm_meetl_by_ac_-_011How to manage a media crisis is the theme of July’s Business Media Club meetings. As Chris Green explains, it is an important annual set-in-stone theme addressed by the club.

Most businesses believe they are Teflon-coated. Disaster doesn’t and couldn’t happen here. We’re immune to a crisis. If only it were so.

Suffer a blow to your reputation and you’re chances of surviving long term are minimal. Period.

Therefore managing your reputation should be the No 1 priority of every business.

A recent survey of 500 top business leaders in the USA found the characteristics they cherished most were in this order: Reputation, integrity, trust, ethics, image and capability.

That’s right, when pressed, successful business leaders chose four key character values ahead of image and ability to do the job.

So why wouldn’t you see planning, managing and communicating your reputation, integrity, trust and ethics as your primary objective?

Why wouldn’t you have a plan in place to defend your reputation in case things go wrong?

The hard facts are that 80 per cent of businesses that suffer a crisis fold within two years. You can lift that figure nearer to 90 per cent if it involves a loss of data or security breach.

Most just didn’t see it coming. What could possibly go wrong? It couldn’t happen here.

That’s why fewer than half of UK businesses have a crisis plan in place and most that do see it as an operational requirement rather than something to readily embrace.

Most think they can ‘wing it’. The high rate of business deaths suggest they can’t.

As for the thought that media crises only beset high profile organisations, in today’s rapid social networking world, small and micro businesses are the most vulnerable to this immediate and volatile form of communication.

Back to the stats, 80 per cent of what needs to be done to avoid a crisis should happen in advance.

The more proactive you are at communicating positively with your audience(s) the better chance you have of surviving a crisis.

You’ll be more proficient because:

(a) You’ll have a plan in place… and have a team assembled to deal with different aspects, and

(b) You’ll be cut some slack if you have a good reputation. After all, it’s ‘just not like you’ rather than being ‘well, typical’.

It’s about putting the quality of your message first and managing the methods of delivery last (something we always coach at Chris Green Media). It is about nuancing the message for different groups of people.

This way, you’ll never view ‘no comment’ as an acceptable option – which is so easy to construe as don’t care, aren’t bothered, got something to hide etc.

You’ll realise that different groups of people of differing value to your business so need to know what is happening in a pecking order.

Forget the ‘customer comes first’ mantra, try delivering a catch-all holding message without communicating with key partners, staff, suppliers, investors etc as a priority.

Or failing to manage the media effectively (and I’ll include social media here – your online audience is more immediate than the wider public reached via the conduit of the traditional media).

Blaming journalists for muck raking, only being interested in bad news or suggesting the story isn’t of public interest won’t cut it, either. Like burying your head ostrich-like (another favoured but misguided option) the problem won’t go away and may get worse.

But handle these varying folks well and you can turn a crisis to your advantage. Building positive relationships with key contacts is just one way you can do this.

This requires thought, planning and managing your communications – and seeing your reputation as the most valuable aspect of your business.

To some, this requires a sea change of thinking.

Treat your reputation with scant regard and choppy waters can cause you to capsize.

Chris Green is an award-winning author and broadcaster – and managing partner of Chris Green Media – which inspires organisations to communicate better by connecting deeper.

The Birmingham Business Media Club meets at Longbridge Innovation Centre on July 15 and the Worcester Business Media Club at Wild Wood Rooms on July 22. Click here for more details.