Archive for the Crisis Preparedness Category

Crisis Preparedness New Year’s Resolution

Crisis Preparedness New Year’s Resolution

Whether it’s your New Year’s resolution or simply a key objective for 2019, do your best to make your goal a crisis preparedness resolution. It’s an objective that not only makes you more effective but also allows you to enjoy more peace of mind. Ultimately, it leads to crisis prevention becoming a reality for your business. Then you could truly relax over the holidays!

crisis preparedness

Until that happens, the holidays are a perfect time to think through your crisis preparedness resolution and the actions that are needed. It might even make that long flight or car trip seem shorter. Just imagine having systems in place to prevent a crisis or at least manage it so effectively that it becomes a routine day at the office.

Why Crisis Preparedness?

Your business would be more valuable to markets that reward success and punish failure. Customers would be more confident about your capability, reliability and performance. Insurance rates and costs would be lower. Your organization would be safer and more secure. Employees would feel valued and more engaged. You wouldn’t lose what is important to you and your business.

A crisis preparedness resolution can help you prevent crises. It’s a way of thinking, planning and preparing that is focused on identifying risks, developing systems to minimize those risk and preparing to address them if there is a problem.  In fact, a rigorous crisis preparedness program protects your business, your bottom line, your reputation and your viability as a business.

Start with an emergency management program your team prepares for operational and safety threats. Just the thought and preparation in the emergency management program will help reduce risks. Then add Crisis management to expand your emergency management thinking to incorporate corporate risks, concerns and participation.

Crisis communications begs for crisis preparedness resolution

Finally, integrate crisis communications with your other preparations to ensure that you also reduce reputational risks. This is important because communications issues can often torpedo a company more quickly than the loss of a major operation. All of these together provide an integrated crisis management and communications discipline that anticipates, reduces and prepares for business risks.

Three Additions for Your Crisis Preparedness

This relatively small investment in crisis preparedness will limit your exposure and ultimately result in crisis prevention. Most crisis preparedness programs are centered around operational emergencies and foreseeable corporate problems. To be truly effective, be sure to include atypical corporate situations in your crisis preparedness plans. Three that everyone should consider are:

  • Poorly chosen words can turn an effective response into a reputational catastrophe that may cost a CEO his job and a company $billions. In many cases, simple media training for key personnel and responders can make a major difference.
  • Dozens of organizations are in turmoil following sexual harassment and hostile work environment revelations. There are proactive steps companies can take to learn where they may have issues, address the problem and stop it from festering into a future crisis.
  • Acts of violence have become more common in churches, schools and other public venues. This means that businesses and other organizations should also be prepared for this possibility. Even if you have nothing to do with the violence, your organization can be seriously harmed by such an event. There are steps you can take to better prepare your people and your organization.

Crisis Preparedness Resolution Leads to Crisis Prevention

The easiest path to crisis prevention is preparation and avoidance. A robust crisis management program, including crisis communications and emergency management, can help you achieve your New Year’s crisis preparedness resolution. In fact, crisis preparedness provides a wealth of benefits to those you care about and your bottom line.

To learn more, see our recent blog about fall crisis preparedness. If you’re still not sure what to do or want help, call us. We’re here to ensure you do a great job and make you look good doing it.

Fall Crisis Preparedness Advantage

Fall Crisis Preparedness Advantage

For many businesses, Autumn is the time when you press forward to accomplish everything you’ve missed or, better, give yourself an advantage next year. Most Americans call the season Fall, which evokes another meaning of the word that is closer to failure or collapse. None of us want to fail or even think about a great Humpty Dumpty fall, That’s why it’s wise to occasionally consider and prepare for major corporate issues. To help, let’s take a few minutes to walk through giving yourself a Fall crisis preparedness advantage.

Fall crisis preparedness advantage

As with a fall, a crisis is usually rather sudden, unexpected and difficult to correct while it’s happening. If you don’t want to crack open like an egg, it helps to prepare, practice ways to minimize damage and respond as the situation demands. Ultimately, those efforts will ensure a more thoughtful, coordinated and effective response; a crisis preparedness advantage. The need is evident from the host of business, professional, societal and environmental calamities suffered over the past year. Do yourself a favor and press forward with a Fall crisis preparedness program, before it’s your downfall.

Why bother with Fall crisis preparedness?

The operations functions of most organizations recognize the risks from an operational emergency. They’ve had enough exposure to past emergencies to understand the great financial and operational cost if the emergency is not effectively addressed. That why they require serious attention to emergency preparedness, including planning and training. Sadly, less attention is given to preparing for corporate crises, even though they carry the greatest risk to organizational survival. That’s why Fall crisis preparedness planning and drills are so important. If not now, when?.  No crisis suffers fools with a corporate death-wish.

Last year, we wrote that “2017 ‘gave’” the energy and chemical industries, pipelines, railroads, and other businesses the following:

  • Workplace violence with fatalities
  • Employee theft and embezzlement
  • Sexual Assault and harassment
  • Explosions, fires, and spills
  • Hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes
  • Kidnapping of employees
  • Internal and external industrial espionage
  • Extortion of compromised employees
  • Executive misconduct
  • War, civil unrest and insurrection where we do business

 Do you see any similarities this year? Have you considered whether it might get worse next year and hit your business directly? These things happen more often than any of us want to admit. They’re also happening with greater frequency and severity.   The only real questions are when and how much. In other words, will you be next and what will be the uncontrolled damage to your organization.

crisis

Avoidance isn’t the answer

Few would have expected Houston to encounter three 500-year floods in as many years or that the latest would be a 1,000-year flood. This created corporate challenges for some companies that went well beyond the operational response. Many others would have missed the global attention spawned by the Me-Too movement. Obviously, it would have been better to resolve these issues before they became a crisis for many. However, most organizations will do well to prepare to identify and address such issues effectively, once they are known.

Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t already prepared. It has been human nature throughout history to discount risks and expect to overcome perils. The ancient Greeks recognized the risk of arrogance and excessive pride, by making hubris the common failing in most Greek tragedies. Even so, if you’re not already in a crisis, there’s still time to initiate Fall crisis preparedness. Anything you do to overcome inertia will help you achieve a crisis preparedness advantage.

The odds of a crisis confronting a company are infinitely greater than the odds of winning the lottery. So, it’s hubris to feel immune to a crisis and/or intentionally dismiss the importance of preparation for a worst-case scenario.  The rational investment is to dedicate the time and resources needed to prepare for and prevent a crisis. Doing that could easily save your company far more than you could ever win in a lottery.

Operational vs. Corporate/Reputational

The big question is whether you will be prepared when a crisis strikes. Most companies have emergency management programs in place to address the inherent risks in their physical operations. These are important and are often institutionalized much like safety and regulatory compliance have been ingrained in their processes and are a component of company culture. Testing those programs regularly and subjecting them to external assessments creates a good and solid foundation for the basic components of Crisis Preparedness that include Emergency Management, Communications, Corporate Security and Emergency Response.

emergency management

The problem comes when it’s something unanticipated or bigger than the company’s routine operational capabilities; in other words, a crisis needing a crisis management plan, crisis management team, crisis management policy, procedure, and processes, all integrated with crisis communications and public affairs. If you have these capabilities working in full coordination, you are doing well and should have an effective and comprehensive crisis preparedness program.  If you include annual training through organized exercises, you will have a crisis preparedness advantage.

Many of the examples listed above constitute a bigger corporate crisis that could seriously damage a company’s reputation and its market value. These bigger and more complex situations require elevated crisis preparedness capabilities with crisis management plans involving executive management and more sophisticated crisis communications capabilities. Here, dispassionate wisdom and experience can make all the difference.

Crisis preparedness advantage

Crisis preparedness requires thoughtful planning and the discipline to follow through. It’s what separates great companies with staying power from those with short-term focus who won’t make it through the next downturn. Even when companies have strong, well-established crisis preparedness programs, they can easily create new vulnerabilities. Some examples are when 1) they rotate inexperienced people through supervisory responsibility for crisis management, 2) crisis management team members change without experienced replacements or trained replacements, or 3) the rate of those changes exceed the frequency of the team’s group practices.

Without strong coaching and support, an inexperienced crisis management or crisis communications professional can unintentionally expose a company to extraordinary risks. These are not only career limiting for the professional, but also for the executives overseeing the function.  Unfortunately, it may take a major accident, catastrophic event or highly visible issue for these mistakes to become apparent.

Institutional knowledge and culture are key to successful and repeatable response management. If you want to avoid these issues, then at the very minimum, arm those employees or leaders with an experienced consultant and mentor to guide them through the minefields of the risks, corporate exposures, and liabilities.

To lose what you already have in crisis preparedness and organizational resilience is a terribly expensive waste.  Readiness and preparedness for a crisis are part of a larger recipe for success.  Since few investors will tolerate a preventable loss of share value, basic measures of crisis preparedness and capability maintained to specific standards are core expectations of owners and stockholders.  Make the call and get ahead of this, while there’s still time.

Accelerating Reputational Crisis Threat

Accelerating Reputational Crisis Threat

The uproar over comments by Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee last week along with the corporate, political and public responses should spook anyone who realizes that what happens in one situation could quickly morph and replicate itself into another. Our society’s current obsession with sensationalism apparently needs to be fed frequently and this is creating an accelerating reputational crisis for anything in its path.

Celebrities and politicians are drawing most of the attention. They regularly feed it, benefit from it and use it to distract us. If celebrities and politicians are also the targets for this negative attention, we can rationalize it as appropriate live by the sword, die by the sword justice.

Pandora accelerating reputation crisis

Unfortunately, it’s not likely that this trend will be limited to celebrities and politicians. Much like Pandora exposed all of us to the seven deadly sins when her personal curiosity got the better of her, politicians and celebrities’ sensational promotions are increasing the risk of an accelerating reputational crisis that will confront corporations.

Public facing, B2C businesses are already seeing this. The actions of a few can even compel more socially conscious businesses such as Starbucks to become the poster child for addressing broader societal issues.  While B2C companies are more exposed, B2B businesses are also vulnerable and they better learn to deal with this growing risk.

The social media channels we “enjoy” today are connecting, motivating and empowering massive attention to things few previously noticed. Mass media understands this and is compounding the effect by heavily covering social media developments. The result is that stakeholders, including those who affect the future of your business, are aware and engaged almost before we know.

In this next iteration of our concerns highlighted in our weaponized media and corporate crisis prepper blogs, we are now focused on the very real risk of accelerating reputational crisis situations. Of course, most of us will quickly say that that Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee represent entirely different situations. We tell ourselves that “we are not racists, misogynists or haters, and we don’t tolerate it from our employees or contractors.”

accelerating reputational crisis

While that sounds good and may be true, it’s rarely that simple and straightforward. What if an employee does something insensitive on his own time or it’s unclear who is telling the truth and you need to investigate. Now take it up a notch and consider a case of harassment that previously would have been addressed through an internal investigation but could easily become very visible in today’s world. These are legitimate issues that need to be addressed fairly and equitably.

You want to avoid being whipsawed by public opinion, but we cannot ignore it. Social media is facilitating such rapid detection, amplification, and counterattacks that it is exceedingly difficult to stay ahead of anything. What was OK yesterday may not be OK tomorrow. Something that might have been quietly handled in the past, can be very explosively public in the future. We all need to prepare and be on our toes.

To maintain their social license to operate and avoid being hit by an accelerating reputational crisis, companies need to work through these situations now, so they can respond in real time when they are confronted. Start by establishing and clearly communicating acceptable standards of behavior, including social media policy. Work through how you will respond to various scenarios, develop related messages and test them through tabletop exercises. These are just a few of the steps that help you to respond more quickly and effectively if you are hit by an accelerating reputational crisis.

Corporate Crisis Prepper – A Ton of Cure

By anticipating and managing the challenges that confront organizations, a corporate crisis prepper can make the difference between success and failure for a company. To understand how, we first need to explain what we mean by a corporate crisis prepper or more simply, a corporate prepper. To get there, we need to discuss the broader survival prepper movement in our society.  For those of you who are not as aware of prepper concerns, there may be more to the story than you think.

corporate prepper

Ultimately this story will take us to preparing for a corporate crisis when communication systems collapse. Along the way, we’ll briefly touch on items that some associate with preppers, such as storing food, medicine, and weapons for extreme doomsday scenarios. We’ll do this because there are elements of being a survival prepper that make it easier to understand why you should consider being a corporate crisis prepper.

At various levels of intensity, survival preppers have surmised that there is a risk of the breakdown in the fundamental systems we’ve come to expect in our everyday lives. This could be as obvious and likely as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes or some other natural catastrophe that disrupts day-to-day life. It might last for a day or two or it might be weeks or even months. Just look at the flooding from Hurricane Harvey in South Texas or the continuing hurricane damage on Puerto Rico. In these situations, there could be a loss of power, logistics for food and other supplies, internet and cellular communications, and increase in opportunistic or desperation crimes.

prepper supplies

Survival preppers address this possibility by storing water, food, medicines, alternative sources of power, manually powered radio, solar generator and some include self-defense in their preparations. The extent of preparedness depends upon the individual’s level of concern and their individual judgment and available resources to determine what is needed.  Many preppers very rationally, objectively weigh the risks and take the precautions they deem appropriate for those risk.

Someone who has been through several disruptive natural disasters is likely to have a few days of water, nonperishable food, batteries and maybe even a small generator. However, another person who has lived through weeks of isolation with no help available may well take even more extensive precautions.

solar flare corporate crisis prepper

Then there is the risk of wider, more extreme disasters such as a coronal mass ejection solar event frying electronic circuits or a major hack bringing down our national power grid. Both are unlikely at any given moment, but the consequences are so high that the seemingly small risk is great enough to consider some precautions.

Then you get less likely, but still feasible scenarios such as a break-down of civil order or armed insurrections. Most Americans scoff at this possibility, but we should realize that violent revolution and invasion are more common than our U.S. experience. Even the U.S. has had major revolutionary conflicts in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, so with our limited experience, we still average a major event about every 120 years. Those of you who have studied probability may see this risk as somewhat comparable to the multiple hundred-year floods the City of Houston had in 2017.

revolution corporate crisis prepper

This isn’t to suggest that we’re going to have a violent revolution in the U.S. any time soon or even ever. It’s just that globally revolutions are relatively common, meaning that at any given time somewhere in the world it is a real possibility. That’s why the smart money occasionally goes to the preppers.

If you layer on top of that the enormous, unpredictable advances in technology, the growing international tension and what we have already seen in countries using weaponized media to attack each other, we can see how major disruption is possible either through a natural disaster, mistakes or malicious intent. This makes being a corporate crisis prepper, the hero who will be praised if a non-traditional crisis befalls their company. It’s also where a lot of wealthy geniuses are putting some of their money.

It might surprise you to learn that several Silicon Valley billionaires have taken a little of their money and dedicated it to providing a sustainable life for themselves if we have a catastrophic event that wipes out a lot of our infrastructure and support systems. To them, it’s not that they expect doomsday scenarios, but the impact would be so great that it’s worth taking a few percents or even a fraction of a percent of their wealth to mitigate and guard against it.

prpepper bunker corporate crisis prepper

If these bright, wealthy individuals can objectively justify some prepper investments, shouldn’t the same be true for a major corporation which could either lose everything or end up ahead in a catastrophe? This is where being a corporate prepper and a survival prepper overlaps.

Like people, corporations have individual identities that they want to extend and grow. This requires a certain amount of care and societal acceptance for corporations to flourish. Companies need to be able to protect themselves and survive hardship, but they also need to be reconciled with other demands. So, let’s scale this back for the corporate prepper to just the relatively likely scenarios in the next few years and see what we should rationally do.

In addition to your crisis management, relationship, reputation and crisis communications efforts, the wise corporate crisis prepper needs to assume that the company’s website and social media channels are vulnerable. As we discussed in our recent blog on weaponized media, your digital media could be attacked long before you even know there’s an issue.

Since you could lose one or more of your primary communication channels, you may want to consider supplementing them with at least some of the following capabilities:

  • Equipment
    • Landline – cellular service can be interrupted or overloaded, and you need another way to reach people.
    • Satellite phone – for remote locations and critical communications if other systems fail.
    • Shortwave radio – in dire circumstances, this 20th-century technology rarely fails.
    • Cell phone with encrypted voice network – to talk with key personnel and stakeholders confidentially.
    • Controlled and encrypted text messaging system such as Vaporstream – if other systems may have been compromised, you need a secure way to exchange information.

crisis prepper

  • Resources
    • Hard copy contact lists and plans – If you can’t use your computer or smartphone, you better have a backup.
    • Radio contacts and protocol – if you rely on the web or even phone trees to communicate with employees, you need this if your region loses power and phone.
    • Dark website – both to protect your commercial website from being disrupted by a crisis and as a reserve if your primary site goes down.
    • Access to a major press release network, such as Business Wire or PR Newswire – this is to better target audiences and in case your internal capabilities aren’t available.
    • Monitoring services such as Cision, Meltwater or more sophisticated analytics such as Synoptos  – you need to know what is happening and how to counter.
    • An outside PR firm – to help you quickly scale up to challenges confronting your business and even take over if your own people are not able to respond.

A corporate crisis prepper who has the right mix of this equipment will have the basic ability to communicate with employees and stakeholders if they lose other channels such as internet and intranet through a widespread loss of power or denial of service. Of course, you will still be very limited in your ability to combat misinformation or attacks on your business unless you can quickly mobilize support to understand what is happening, appropriately respond and get your message out. That’s why a corporate crisis prepper will likely secure most, if not all, of the resources shown above.

In future blogs, we will delve more deeply into these individual tools and resources, but for the moment we just want to encourage you to anticipate risks and begin to marshal the capabilities necessary to respond to them.

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.

Crisis Assessment Team – Emerging Concern

Crisis Assessment Team – Emerging Concern

The best prospect for overcoming a crisis comes from recognizing an emerging concern while there is still time to act. A process for providing a timely crisis alert to management greatly improves the prospects for an appropriate, capable and successful response. Of course, that begs the question of how you know it is a crisis. If you respond to every emerging concern you’ll wear down and dilute your capabilities, but if you resist all activation you may permanently damage the company’s reputation. It can be difficult to get consistent, knowledgeable perspectives that allow you to respond quickly and effectively. A Crisis Assessment Team can provide that tool very effectively and efficiently.

Emerging Concern, Crisis Alert and Crisis Assessment Team

A Crisis Assessment Team is a small group with relevant perspectives and responsibilities that determine the nature of any unexpected issue or event and surmises its potential effect on the business.  In essence, they look at the initial information and determine whether the emerging concern is a crisis or something different.

The most common error we see is the assumption that a crisis and emergency are fundamentally referring to the same thing.  While they may overlap, they have very different impacts on the company. An emergency is generally an operational matter requiring coordinated responses to protect health, safety, environment or security of the people and operations associated with the incident.

A crisis is a corporate concern involving a threat to the reputation, finances, stakeholder relationships or viability of the business. An emerging crisis can threaten a company’s social license to operate, just as an emergency can threaten a facility. A crisis is a unique situation that may arise from an emergency but also arises from many other corporate issues that go well beyond what is applicable for an emergency response.  The trick for leadership is to determine when they have crisis potential and since an emerging concern is a matter of perspective, it’s important to get the right people’s perspectives in the very beginning.

Since emergency management processes have been extensively drilled for years, asset-based organizations common in manufacturing, oil, gas, chemicals, and energy typically think of crisis events that can be observed visually such as fires, spills, explosions, multiple injuries and similar events that are associated with rescues, flashing lights, and sirens.  Even though those are horrible situations, it’s not always true that those events equal a crisis.  Depending on the preparedness and response capabilities of an organization, many of those events could be classified as emergencies only.

Conversely crisis situations can originate from emergencies but often originate from things that are not easily observed such as leaks about earnings or production, reputation attacks, improper relationships, ethics violations, criminal activity or rumors.  It’s important to quickly distinguish the potential of any event of significance and give it an insightful review by those who are best able to put it in the appropriate context to ascertain its potential and figuratively sound the crisis alarm.

You may be saying to yourself that you already have this system in place.  You may also be familiar with different risk, rank or consequence modeling tools that use the words like “tier”, “category” or “level” for categorizing risks, labeling emergencies, levels of response and financial losses.   Those tools are designed to highlight the interests and focus of the disciplines that typically use them.  Health, Safety & Environment (HSE), Security and Risk Management departments, as well as the National Response Center and other government agencies that regulate industries commonly use these systems and measurement terms.

However, despite the information these tools provide, they almost never translate into a usable “big picture” characterization of the emerging crisis issue and a problem for company leadership.  These tools are guides and technical management instruments that assist with the organization of resources and levels of capital commitment expected.

Unfortunately, those classification tools don’t give you that “special picture” that comes from senior level perspectives, instincts, and experience.  That’s the purpose of a Crisis Assessment Team; to quickly get focus on the “special picture” that characterizes the potential for a catastrophe to the company.  That picture doesn’t organically focus when you’re presented with “This is a Tier 3 event”, “we have a level 4 risk” or “this qualifies as a category 2”.  Those classifications are critical for any number of things but they’re not what we’re talking about.

Who are the people that can really determine you have a crisis or if crisis potential is present?  When should those people try to make those determinations?  Wouldn’t it be better if those people knew about such an event up front before it got out of hand?

We know of many crisis events that started out simply as a small wound but quickly festered and became septic for the company.  They were routine emergencies, security or public relations issues that strayed off course and weren’t known by leadership until the crisis was evident to everyone.  Many times, those leaders will say that they could have seen it coming and mitigated the situation if they had known or been involved from the beginning, but no corporate executive can be expected to handle everything.

Emerging Concern, Crisis Alert and Crisis Assessment Team

It’s that situation that a Crisis Assessment Team will help to avoid or mitigate.  They’ll be able to activate the crisis management team with authority and sense of purpose.  Leadership won’t be coming in after the fact and attempting to catch up or come from behind.

Given a set of simple parameters defining when a Crisis Assessment Team notification is warranted, the evaluation of any situation can be done in just a few minutes either in person or using controlled secure communications.  The team could be composed of the following or their equivalent.

  1. Senior Crisis Management Process Owner
  2. A senior leader of the affected business, asset, function or department
  3. Senior Counsel – A senior attorney that thoroughly understands company operations and positioning.
  4. A senior leader of Communications and Public Affairs
  5. Head of Health, Safety, Environment, and Security

From a quick and candid discussion, an emerging concern can be evaluated for its potential impact to the overall operations of the company, potential to result in litigation, potential impact to the safety and security of employees and the public, and potential for damaging media, stakeholder or government involvement.

Of course, there are many reporting and notification plans and systems in every industry.  Many already have a mechanism for this type of evaluation in the process, but it usually waits until the emerging concern is sufficiently advanced to warrant executive notification through some sort of crisis alert. The idea here is to instead establish a quick, unobtrusive mechanism to advise and involve the crisis assessment team early.

Even if a decision is made to wait and observe with no crisis management team activation, at least they’re aware of the wound and can provide first aid or choose to see if it will heal on its own.  The dominant purpose of a Crisis Assessment Team is to get leadership awareness at the earliest possible moment.  They can decide that activating the crisis team is immediately warranted, not warranted or needed in a limited capacity.  At least they’ll have options from the beginning rather than waiting until the issue is already cemented or lost.

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Email: info@corporatecrisisgroup.com

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