Archive for the Crisis Issues Category

Crisis Issues – Beyond Emergency Response

Crisis Issues – Beyond Emergency Response

Don’t worry! We have a great emergency response team. They follow all the best practices and train annually. They can handle any emergency response.” That’s a great start for any company. Certainly, it will serve you well in an operational emergency. Also, they can apply many of their skills in other areas. However, this doesn’t address the different perspective needed for corporate concerns and crisis issues. To illustrate this, you’ll see major crisis issues to watch later in this post.

crisis issues emergency response

Emergency Response vs. Crisis Management

Many companies plan and practice only emergency response procedures because they are more comfortable with the structured approach and focus on operating issues. They also like that the federal government has complementary emergency response protocols.  Of course, emergency responders are very important in most operating circumstances. However, corporate crisis situations require perspectives that go beyond emergency response.

What’s missing is the host of corporate concerns that are also covered in the broader field of crisis management. If you have an existing emergency response program and need a crisis management capability, the simple solution is to build an overlaying crisis management team and supporting crisis management plan at the corporate level. This will ensure that neither team or approach confuses the focus of the other.

Likewise, crisis management teams support emergency response teams and other tactical groups while providing direction and voice for the entire enterprise. In this hierarchical structure, the crisis management organization encompasses all the resiliency efforts such as emergency response, business continuity, and security.

Conversely, don’t expect emergency response teams to handle crisis issues. Corporate concerns can simply be too complex for the structure of emergency response plans and compartmentalized teams.

Hopefully, your company already has a crisis management plan and practices it. If not, act now, since the middle of a crisis is usually too late to plan and practice your team’s roles and responsibilities.

crisis issues emergency response

10 Crisis Issues

Crisis management can work hand-in-glove with your emergency management team and plan while addressing other enormously important issues. Here are 10 major crisis issues that warrant real thought, preparation and integrated crisis management:

Bankruptcy

This can happen to any company. Consider two companies that had been among the 10 largest in the United States. Texaco declared bankruptcy so it could appeal an unexpected $13 billion judgment for tortious interference. Enron went from perennially most innovative company and darling of Wall Street to a global pariah in a matter of weeks. The plans, strategies, and leadership at Texaco ensured the company survived for many years after the bankruptcy. Enron did not enjoy a similar fate. Initially, there was too much executive focus on personal survival and shocked denial to stem the massive capital collapse. These situations resulted from several of the next examples.

Litigation

This was the proximate cause of the Texaco bankruptcy and virtually ubiquitous around the Enron collapse. Litigation is often the cause of an unanticipated crisis. Unfortunately, you may appear to be in complete control, until you aren’t. Litigation requires extraordinary attention to any communication and coordination with legal representation. Often, communication with stakeholders helps with litigation, such as through amicus curiae

Hostile takeovers/activist investors

Activist investors are increasingly confronting companies and threatening change-of-control. For instance, when Texaco was weakened by its bankruptcy, Carl Icahn initiated a takeover. The crisis response included passage of the Delaware corporate consolidations bill that slowed more aggressive tactics. This gave the company time to restructure and successfully respond.

Third party incidents

One company’s emergency may become a crisis for other companies in its industry. An oil spill in Alaska resulted in stringent shipping requirements on the entire petroleum industry and a passenger train collision in California resulted in multi-billion-dollar positive train control requirements on freight railroads. Public opinion and crisis issues can drive punitive legislative responses.

Corporate malfeasance/ government investigations

If an employee bribes a foreign official, the CEO may go to jail under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In another case, the government may prosecute your company if you falsify billing. Both will seriously damage reputations.

Expropriations/ abrogation of contracts/ sanctions

You may be doing everything right, but a sovereign government can act for its own reasons. It may want your assets, refuse to pay for services under its contract or put you in the middle of an international dispute. These actions can shake markets’ confidence and require massive crisis communication, diplomatic and legal campaigns.

Executive misconduct/sexual assault

Even powerful executives have flaws and they are not always obvious to those who work with them. The preventive programs you put in place and the way you respond can make all the difference. Observers will attribute their actions to your company, whether that’s right or wrong. Carefully managed, it won’t be as bad.

Cyber-attacks/digital assaults

Denial of service, cybersecurity breaches, and other digital attacks have become common. Be sure to handle each case appropriately for its unique circumstances. Federal law actually changed after more than 100 million personal records were hacked at a consumer credit reporting agency. If you want to avoid scandal, be sure to consider and address public interest as a part of each case.

Mass shootings/ terrorism/ acts of war

Nothing is immune to violence. Churches and schools are targets, and new industries are having to scramble to adapt and prepare. Remember when few could imagine someone checking in a hotel, firing hundreds of rounds and killing scores of innocents. The thought, planning, and training to prepare for the unthinkable is now a necessary part of the business.

Targeted reputational attacks

It’s not just politicians and governments that find themselves under attack. Similar methods and sensationalism can be used to persuade communities that a company has violated their trust when that’s not the case.

 

Companies are vulnerable to many of these crisis issues. Waiting for them to happen is too late. Take actions now! Crisis Management and Crisis Communications require capabilities, critical thinking skills, and innovative approaches. With strong planning, preparation and skill you can overcome these issues.

Crisis Management Cultural Issues

Crisis Management Cultural Issues

Imagine an entire community emotionally paralyzed with indecision. Now, consider the impact during a crisis. This phenomenon occurs when communities suffer the sudden or traumatic loss of things that define them. It’s called Mazeway Disintegration. At their peril, most organizations do not anticipate the devastating impact of these crisis management cultural issues in their response planning. Fortunately, you can mitigate mazeway disintegration. We will walk you through how to address these cultural waypoints in your emergency response and crisis management plans.

crisis management cultural issues

Consider what happens to affected groups in an emergency or disaster.  In normal situations, our cultural reference points make it easier for us to comfortably conduct every-day life. This changes if a crisis disrupts or eliminates those cultural connections. Entire groups of people can be disoriented and even immobilized if they lose touch with cultural norms. Correspondingly, this limits their ability to cope with a disaster, compounding the difficulty of the crisis response.

If we do not mitigate mazeway disintegration’s effects, these groups may not be able to psychologically cope with the disaster. Accordingly, effective response plans need to address these crisis management cultural issues before a disaster occurs. The alternative is simply not acceptable since disoriented communities will only serve to prolong and magnify the crisis.

What is Mazeway?

First, let’s make sure we understand the term mazeway. Most of us have an organized and predictable way of doing all the things in our lives. It’s the pace, pattern, rhythm, and manner in which we interact with the world around us. It’s our mazeway.

The American anthropologist, Anthony F. C. Wallace, proffered the term, mazeway, six decades ago.  He wrote about what happens in a disaster from a different perspective.  He told the story of a Petun Indian tribe whose warriors returned home to find their village burned to the ground and every man, woman, and child a victim of a violent death or abduction.  Likewise, everything they knew, including their home, family, and possessions no longer existed.  He described their “shock” with the term mazeway disintegration.

mitigate mazeway disintegration

Socio-Cultural Disorganization

This is important because victims of other disasters often react in similar ways.  Think of people displaced by sudden onset natural disasters such as earthquakes and tornadoes.  They didn’t see it coming. Therefore, they were emotionally unprepared for a disaster taking away homes, lives and entire communities. Interestingly, this is true even if they live in an area prone to such hazards.

In these circumstances, normal mazeways disappear or become unconnected…. disintegrated.  These groups no longer have the things that connect them to the world in a way that is orderly. Moreover, being psychologically (and physically) unconnected can be severely debilitating.

Crisis management cultural issues can make it impossible for affected groups to engage in activities that would normally help. The crisis response needs to address and restore enough of the cultural reference points to allow communities to function normally. Otherwise, the response will not mitigate mazeway disintegration.

Planning for Crisis Management Cultural Issues

Preparing to mitigate mazeway disintegration is an essential component of an effective emergency response or crisis management plan. If the objective is to resolve the problem, restoring people’s lives to normal needs to be part of your planning. If you don’t do this, the problem will fester and perpetuate the crisis.

To mitigate mazeway disintegration, you need to have some understanding of what their maze looked like before the disruption.  Likewise, rendering assistance beyond basic first aid can either support a return to normalcy or add exponentially to the problem. In fact, you may exacerbate the problem if you fail to address the group’s cultural norms and crisis management cultural issues.

crisis management cultural issues

Business and Cultural Interactions

Think of all the different cultures affected by a large multinational miner, manufacturer, producer, refiner, or transporter.  Some examples are business cultures, national cultures, ethnic cultures, regional cultures, local cultures and then subcultures.  Businesses interact with these cultures every day. Nevertheless, these cultural interactions are far more complex in an emergency or disaster.

Consider a Chinese company that has a U.S. citizen as the country manager for their U.S. operations.  Many people assume this will provide sufficient understanding of the U.S. culture.  In fact, that may be true for normal operating conditions when the public isn’t affected by an emergency. However, that assumption is no longer true when things deviate from the standard.

Imagine restoring normalcy to a displaced Quaker community after a pipeline rupture that caused fires and a toxic H2S release. Contrast that with an undocumented immigrant community in a city, a casino resort on a Native American reservation or a massive subdivision of expensive homes.  Each one of those has its own culture and requires different considerations and types of assistance.

Three Ways to Mitigate Mazeway Disintegration

  1. Go Beyond Cookie Cutter Correctness. The political correctness mindset limits and hinders the effectiveness of response efforts. This makes a thorough discussion of risks, solid vulnerability analysis, and subsequent preparation essential. Even the most brand-aware organization will be rendered ineffective if they fail to identify crisis management cultural issues in their response.
  2. Know the Mazeways of Affected Populations. Determine the characteristics of the cultures, inside the fence and out. Do this now before you need it in a crisis. If you don’t know their cultural context before it is disrupted, you can’t effectively mitigate mazeway disintegration after the disaster. If you wait until impacted populations demonstrate crisis management cultural issues, it may be too late. In fact, after the disaster, affected communities may not be able to articulate what they need to restore normalcy.
  3. Get Independent Assessment. Don’t pawn this off on an overworked or unprepared employee. While it’s not feasible to have cultural anthropologists conduct exhaustive studies of every population, there are cost-effective options. In most cases, you can use professionals who understand this dynamic. They should identify those special populations and describe their needs using accurate descriptors. If they uncover difficult issues, you can address them at that time. Also, prepare the cultural assessment in a context that won’t be misconstrued. This will more effectively mitigate mazeway disintegration in a crisis.

The public now expects companies to avoid culturally insensitive collateral damage. This approach demonstrates your company’s interest in your stakeholders and guards against charges of corporate callousness. Preparing to mitigate mazeway disintegration doesn’t need to be a huge, resource intensive program. Modest programs utilizing knowledgeable resources can identify crisis management cultural issues and develop plans to address them. By following these steps, you can mitigate mazeway disintegration risks and ensure a much more positive resolution.

Weaponized Media – Next Generation Crisis

Weaponized Media – Next Generation Crisis

If you are familiar with the rediscovered term, weaponized, as is relates to digital media then you’re ahead of most. That likely means you are well informed and attuned to anticipating future issues. You can see evidence of weaponized media in the dramatic growth of specialized news channels tailored to every political extreme, reports of foreign states using social media to agitate for social conflict and even the various sides of the term “fake news.” Unfortunately, our society is ill-prepared to deal with the threat and this next generation crisis will likely hit businesses much more severely and sooner than any of us hope.

outrage next generation crisis

Just in day-to-day encounters, businesses are becoming increasingly susceptible to public outrage that often uses social media as an accelerant. Increasingly, the rules and approaches that previously worked are not sufficient for the next iteration. While current best practices can help you get a chance, they simply may not be enough to seamlessly overcome this next generation crisis, where the business is deliberately and maliciously the target.

The recent Starbucks incident in Philadelphia touches on this since it was not just an issue over how Starbucks was involved and responded, but also how many wanted to use the incident as an opportunity to press for broader societal change. While the environmental movement has been using activist tactics against businesses for decades, at least the business could reasonably anticipate and understand how its actions might result in the opposition.

These issues, which sometimes appear to come out of nowhere, may just be the tip of the iceberg. They demonstrate the growing power and engagement of the public through the social media tools and networks that are empowering them. You only need to skim through these 50 examples of social media damaging businesses to see how one or more could spin out of control for your business. As companies struggle to respond to this changing landscape, imagine the much more severe circumstances if state sponsors, issue activists, competitors, and criminals maliciously bring these tools, including advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) against your business.

AI weaponized media

As we marvel at the Google bot’s ability to carry on a human phone conversation, some already realize it won’t be long before robocalls will be indistinguishable from casual acquaintances. We may even use other AI bots to filter through the natural sounding phone bots, and the phone bot race will have begun. This will likely cause us to put up more barriers to interaction, which ironically may make it even easier to weaponize media against our business interests.

The bright young people at Facebook and other social media platforms probably could have avoided some of their recent troubles, if they had the benefit of more diverse experiences, skills, and perspectives in their backgrounds. Ironically, diversity for the tech sector may be to include more traditional, experienced perspectives. In a crisis, you get more wisdom from those who have lived through the nuances of a previous crisis than by dispassionately studying the subject.

There are indications that Russian sponsored groups concerned about the emerging dominance of the U.S. oil and gas industry have already acted to deliberately create domestic resistance to energy projects. If you don’t believe that this could affect you, the U.S House Committee on Science, Space and Technology has reported that Russian sources took at least 9,097 social media actions “about U.S. energy projects or environmental issues between 2015 and 2017.”  If Russia, with its significant global business relationships, was willing to use these tactics to harm their U.S. competitors, imagine how much more aggressive other state-sponsored social attacks could be on businesses they want to destabilize.

Russia Weaponized media

A weakened economy or social conflict tends to reduce a country’s international focus and global influence. It’s easy to see why state sponsors would use weaponized media to undermine other countries’ institutions. If you consider how many governments also have business interests that compete in global commerce, you can see how creating this next generation crisis can easily provide the dual advantage of destabilizing a country while simultaneously weakening a business competitor.

Don’t assume that this next generation crisis will only come from governments. Hackers, terrorists, political activists, former employees and even activist investors have all demonstrated great willingness and skill in using media to attack businesses. The next step will be weaponized media, so they can use their growing sophistication and the availability of AI bots to maliciously target businesses.

The odds are increasing that your business will have to deal with this in the next several months or years. The longer you wait to prepare, the more expensive it will get and vulnerable you will be. If you wait until after the attack starts, it will be very difficult to overcome.

weaponized social media

So, if the task is so daunting, why are we raising the alarm? Well, there is a lot you can do to overcome weaponized media, whether it’s social, digital or traditional. Even if the very brightest think tanks haven’t figured it all out, at least you can make your company a more difficult, less vulnerable target. While preparing for the next generation crisis may not be as simple as only needing to be faster than the other guy, there is a bit of that.

What do you do? A good start is strengthening the same measures that you would use to overcome a traditional crisis and built trust with stakeholders, so they will be more receptive to crisis communications from the company. Next, you develop multi-channel vehicles for communication and ensure you can get to your audiences even if technology, power or access to other channels is blocked.

If your adversary is using weaponized media in a digital environment, you should assume they may be able to deny you access to your digital countermeasures. Consider what you would do in a massive denial of service or a regional power failure. Develop channels across a range of technologies.

next generation media

If you haven’t already done so, prepare for this next generation crisis by building a 3rd generation crisis management team now.  The methodologies may be similar, but the players of today have new titles, responsibilities, and perspectives.  You must bring to the table the right experts to exchange information, preparations and best practices so you can develop workable responses to the weaponized media intentions of any aggressor. Involve the most experienced responders and strategists you can find internally and externally. Don’t limit yourself to one function.

Develop defensive capabilities, plans and test your approaches and systems so you are continuously improving. Build alliances, supporters and your reputation so you can get the benefit of the doubt until you have time to respond. Then you merge that with as much media monitoring and analytics as you can justify. Use investigators and communicators to identify inconsistencies and develop countermeasures. Let the information inform your strategies and tactics.

With a modern crisis management team, knowledge of tomorrow’s risks, and practiced leadership, your business will be prepared for the weaponization of tomorrow.

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