I was recently chatting to a friend who is a CEO.
He had commissioned a specialist business continuity and risk firm to help them put in place a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). It wasn’t cheap but it was operationally comprehensive and it gave him the confidence in the ability of the business to keep running in the face of numerous crisis scenarios.
I started asking a few questions about his most important stakeholders and whether he had mapped them, who would communicate with them in a crisis, when, and what they would say. The answer was no.
I asked whether they had identified the key risk areas, to which he replied yes; but when I asked whether they had spent any time working on the messaging for each of these risks, his answer was no.
I then asked whether they were set up to deal with the media and whether any of his executive team had been media coached. Again no. So I asked whether they had a specialist crisis communication agency ready to help out and, if so, whether the agency had reviewed the BCP through the lens of what sort of reputational issues could arise via the media, social media or with suppliers and customers? Again, the answer to all of this was no.
The conversation confirmed, once again, the biggest gap we see in most BCP’s is they don’t deal with how to manage external communication with a view to reputational risk or market perceptions of how you are seen to be dealing with the crisis.
BCPs are critical. I have read some very comprehensive ones, but despite the best BCP in the world more often than not it is how you are perceived to be dealing with the crisis which will determine the confidence of the market in you and the resultant reputational damage. Your stakeholders, customers and staff will judge you on what you are perceived to be doing well or badly and this relates directly to how, when and who tells your side of the story. It can mean the difference of a reputation preserved or one which suffers reputational damage.
An organisation’s stakeholders are its most important audience so why wouldn’t you spend a significant amount of time deciding who they are, how to engage with them during a crisis before it happens, and what to say. It is an approach which should form an important part of your BCP.
We are currently in the field conducting the research for our 2018/19 Reputation Reality Report. It will be interesting to benchmark the results against the 2017/18 findings. In particular, I’m interested in monitoring the response to one of the biggest surprises in the last report which was, despite 98 per cent of respondents agreeing corporate reputation is one of the organisation’s primary assets, only 41 per cent were testing their crisis plans annually.