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The violent events we have recently witnessed serve as a reminder that all our contacts need to know how to minimize harm in the unlikely event they are around violent situations involving weapons. In the hope that it will save others from harm, we are sharing a two minute segment from one of our security training programs on the standard protocol for dealing with violent circumstances. Please share it with your friends and colleagues.

Government and Community Relations Actions

Government and Community Relations Actions

What should businesses do about government relations? Governments can take your money or reduce your taxes whenever they want. They can increase the cost of materials or open markets to you. Governments can regulate you into oblivion or encourage your growth. They can even take care of your stakeholders’ needs for you or compel you to provide everything for them. This is true at the national level, as well as with state and local governments. The potential impacts are enormous. It would be foolhardy to ignore them. So, what do you do? To start, learn and practice the basics of government and community relations.

Government and community relations Government affairs

In our increasingly polarized society, the stakes of government action are growing. The pendulum of history swings both ways. If it goes too far one way, eventually it will swing back in the other direction.  With less than 90 days before the November 6, 2018 elections, you need to start preparing your business for whatever direction the government will go. Whatever the results, the direction will change.

We’re not necessarily suggesting that your business take sides in the election, but you should expect change either way. The deliberate, methodical procedures of government used to allow time to adapt by insulating businesses from dramatic change. Today, those procedural protections are often disregarded. Combine this with the political posturing that is reducing opportunities for bipartisan solutions, and we have a recipe for more extreme change.

What should businesses do about Government Relations?

Most businesses operate better in stable, predictable environments. Without this stability, we are forced to find solutions for the unpredictable disruptions of our polarized and contentious political world. Some businesses are picking sides and others are seeking influence. Be careful though, since you are gambling your company’s future when you pick sides in politics. You may win for a number of years, but you only need to look at Enron to see how it eventually could work against you.

government affairs government relations

These days, even the most sophisticated businesses are finding it difficult to anticipate and respond to government actions. Some may think of government relations as a political exercise and try to bolster their connections with either Republicans or Democrats in anticipation of the next election. Others look at government relations as a public policy exercise and do their best to objectively inform government officials about the impact of issues. Small businesses may have the owner periodically inform local elected officials about their concerns, rather than dedicate staff to government relations.

Most companies try to navigate this age of disparagement, conflict, and agitation without alienating key stakeholders. For many, the best solution may be a return to government and community relations fundamentals. This helps insulate them from harm and strengthens their base of support. We’ll walk through the seven fundamentals of government and community relations below.

Seven Fundamentals of Government and Community Relations

Regardless of size, every business should prepare itself for an uncertain future. While government and community relations efforts can range from the very elaborate to do-it-yourself, there are seven key initiatives that will strengthen any program. Take these basic government and community relations actions now, scaled to the resources and needs of your business. They will dramatically improve your business’ ability to protect and even enhance its future. This applies whether you have a formal government relations function or are a one-person shop.

government and community relations

Stay Informed

This is the most fundamental need. Stay informed about developments, policy alternatives and the potential impact on your business. For the small business, this may be limited to following the news and participating in a business or professional organization. For large businesses, it’s the same plus deep analysis by experts, intelligence gathering by trade associations, consultants, and your own professionals. If you don’t want unpleasant surprises or missed opportunities, you need to know what is happening and how it will affect your business.

Build your reputation

It’s important that you develop the best possible reputation for your company. This will help prevent your business from being left out of positive legislation or the target of attacks. How others view your company, its value to the economy and contributions to society will influence government officials. A strong brand and reputation help ensure a more attentive audience. In most companies, this is managed by corporate communications or your communication consultant.

Engage in local communities

Strengthen your relationships and base through involvement in the communities where you operate. The communities that host your business are some of your most important stakeholders. They are homes to your employees and people who can influence your future. They can either oppose you and make life miserable or be your biggest supporter.

The time to make friends is not when you need them, but when you can help them. Your investment in them will pay great dividends if and when the tables turn. Start by joining the local chamber of commerce and supporting local organizations. Introduce yourself to local officials and be as helpful as you can in resolving problems. A little courtesy and involvement by you will go a long way. Someday you may be pleasantly surprised by how willingly and effectively they can return the favor.

government and community relations

Leverage your influence

Large businesses likely have a Washington office with teams of government relations professionals and outside lobbyists. They may be a member and involved in major trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, American Hospital Association or the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. Small and large businesses may also belong to state and local associations such as the Texas Farm Bureau or Greater Houston Partnership. These are great sources of information, and they provide opportunities to collaborate with like-minded businesses. They also can help you directly express your business’ views to government officials.

Build relationships with officials

You, your government and community relations professionals, trade associations, employees and other stakeholders can also develop relationships with elected officials by attending events, writing and meeting with them. If you share substantive information, your elected representative may be better informed, share insights and become more supportive of your position. Don’t overestimate your influence, however, since the average Congressional district has about 650,000 residents, with conflicting demands for representatives’ time and energy.

Inform and engage your stakeholders

Your employees understand and care about your business. Keep them informed about issues and opportunities, so they can share their views with elected officials when needed. Man employees are involved in their communities and your most effective ambassadors. Elected officials care what people think. Also, consider keeping other stakeholders such as suppliers or business partners informed and engaged.

Consistent messages

It’s always important to have consistent messaging to all stakeholder groups. Employees, media, investors, government officials, and community leaders should all receive consistent messages and timing is also important. For instance, federal rules prohibit disclosing material information to one group of investors before another. Likewise, you don’t want employees to learn important information about the company from the news before they hear from you. Avoid conflicting messages and be sure to coordinate your company’s outreach efforts on policy matters. The government relations and communication teams need to synchronize their efforts so stakeholders’ grassroots activation complements your other legislative and administration contacts.

Conclusion

Businesses depend upon a social license to operate. These government and community relations efforts build the understanding and relationships needed to gain that support. In this way, they protect and even advance your business interests. While we may not be able to predict the future, we can prepare for and influence it. Take these steps now and you will have a say in how government policy affects your business.

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.

Crisis Management Budget

Crisis Management Budget

Your budget is due! What do you do? If you manage operations, EHS, security or crisis management, you know you need a crisis management budget. Corporate communications also needs a crisis management budget, but you may call it crisis communications. Oh sure, you’re also budgeting for other stuff, but this is different. If you don’t budget for crisis management, you’re leaving your future to chance. Clearly, you need to regularly update and test your plans. You also need to train your people and ensure stakeholders are happy with your responses.

crisis management budget

The question is how you do this when there’s so much already on your plate. You’re being pulled in a dozen different directions and haven’t been able to do all that’s needed. Worse yet, you need reliable numbers for activities you may only touch every year or two. What if you don’t know what to do or how to do it? Nonetheless, you must figure it out and prepare. You’re the functional expert and failure is not an option. The stakes are simply too high to ignore this, but who has the time.

Budget Imperative

The business world is driven by priorities and urgency. Yet, the possibility of a future crisis may not be urgent enough to be a priority. Fortunately, the annual budget process provides the sense of urgency we need. Since there will likely be some sort of crisis next year, companies need to ensure they have resources for the possibility. So, use the budget as a way to ensure you prepare.

Of course, you will need to budget for ongoing work and programs. For these items, past expenses can provide helpful guidance, even in zero-based budgeting. The problem comes with sporadic items. If you haven’t updated, trained or practiced your crisis plan in years, you’re already behind the curve. This frightening situation only gets worse if you don’t have time to work through the numbers and strategy.

crisis management budget

In most situations, crisis drills and plan updates should be conducted annually. If you haven’t prepared and trained, correct this lapse as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could be caught flat-footed in a major crisis. The simplest solution is to include a crisis management budget in your overall budget request. Budget planning season is the time to ensure you are protected against risks that could seriously damage your company.

Crisis Management Budget Needs

This is the annual opportunity to ensure crisis preparedness through your crisis management budget. Start by recognizing that you need to budget for review and update of your crisis plan. Then, outline a budget to train your employees and conduct exercises or drills. This will help you test your program and employees’ abilities. Depending on your situation this can be elaborate or basic. Now you need to provide reliable cost estimates for your budget.

Unfortunately, this hits right when the summer vacations end and children return to school. Concurrently, management is gearing up for a host of major activities in the fall. So, budget preparation is often an afterthought in a world with more to do than time to do it. However, if you hope to have an effective crisis management, training or communication program, don’t miss this opportunity.

So how do you get reliable numbers? It’s hard to budget if you haven’t decided between vendors or whether it would be more efficient to handle this in-house. Nevertheless, there’s a safe solution that will restore sanity to your life and ensure you can make your budget submission work. Having come from the corporate side, we’re going to share this solution despite it causing us more work. Of course, we get our income from work, so we see the beneficial connection.

Crisis management budget

The Budgeting Solution – Ask Consultants

Identify one or two consultants that can do the work you need. For crisis management, this could be a crisis management firm, but if they don’t have integrated communications capabilities, you may need to broaden the outreach. You could use other firms for other specialties, but today we are focused on your crisis management budget. Simply contact them to confirm their relevance and let them know you are planning for next year’s crisis management budget. Then ask them for a budget proposal to provide the necessary work for you.

This should lead to some discussion of your plan elements, as well as training, drill and exercise needs. If you want a stripped-down, fundamental program they should be able to give you an estimate for its parts. For instance, they could say a table top drill for 10 people with a post drill critique will cost $X, while an onsite exercise will be $XX to $XXX. However, if you have significant exposure and gaps in your ability to respond, you may want a signed NDA so you can share details. Paying a modest fee for a more in-depth assessment and the proposal may yield a more comprehensive program later.

If the consultant agrees, you will have the information you need. Conversely, you will be aware that there are limits to what you can expect from them if the consultant declines. Of course, receiving more than one proposal will teach you more about the range of options and capabilities. You can then decide to select one or possibly combine their proposals. Whatever approach you take, the proposal(s) you receive from the consultant(s) should give you the information you need to submit your crisis management budget.

Result

Of course, you could decide to handle the work next year with your own people. If that costs less than the consultant’s proposal, you can feel satisfied that you are saving the company money. Even if you expect to handle this in-house, you should consider initiating vendor approval for the consultants. Here’s why:

  • It recognizes the service they provided.
  • Vendor approval can be a lengthy process and someday you may need help without delay.
  • If you do decide to work with them next year, you can start planning now.
  • If you start now, you’ll have a program waiting for you next year.
  • Tell the consultant about your plans, before they go through vendor approval. Since some companies’ vendor approval requirements can be costly, this will reduce misunderstandings. The consultant may be willing to take the risk but should be given the opportunity to objectively weigh the cost-benefit.

With this approach, a consultant will have an opportunity to build a relationship with your company and you will have more accurate budget plans. This doesn’t always work, but if you are honest and transparent with the consultant, it’s a solution for you and an opportunity for them.

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.

Aspirational Reputation – Institutional Inspiration

Aspirational Reputation – Institutional Inspiration

Businesses have a challenge. Fortunately, they can fix it and increase their competitive advantage at the same time. The solution is to create an aspirational reputation for your company. Simply help your stakeholders believe in the great potential of your business and you will both benefit. Stakeholders who are enthused about your business will help it thrive. Likewise, you can help your stakeholders aspire to greater things by connecting them with the aspirations of your business. You can accomplish all this through authenticity and by creating institutional inspiration.

institutional inspiration

The Challenge

The challenge is that many American’s have lost confidence in a better life for themselves and their children. This has been reflected in recent elections and is felt despite remarkably low unemployment. Interestingly, you can see this in many other parts of the world, as well. This is both a societal problem and a real concern for businesses.

A disaffected population can constrain the economy and increase costs to society. Concurrently, disaffected populations are gravitating toward stronger political leadership to guide and protect them in more difficult times. This phenomenon was seen in the rise of fascism following the disruption of World War I and during the global depression of the 1930s. Significantly, some analysts see a parallel in the current dislocation of the tech revolution and globalization.

With large segments of the population feeling abandoned or even betrayed by elites, the risks to businesses are real. As businesses respond to growing technological and competitive challenges, the gulf between business elites and the have-nots widens. Businesses need to bridge this gap before they become the target.

Why Business Should Act

If the problem is frustration and resignation, the best defense may be to provide opportunities worthy of enthusiasm. Remember, businesses need consumer confidence, an engaged workforce and enthusiastic stakeholders to do well. Fortunately, developing an aspirational reputation builds enthusiasm and makes stakeholders want to associate with your business. The key is to advance institutional inspiration in communication programs and as a priority for both leaders and employees.

aspirational reputation

Most businesses do much better when public sentiment is positive. This is particularly evident when sentiment about an individual business is favorable. When a business encourages its stakeholders to see the business as a positive force that improves conditions, it builds an aspirational reputation. This is a reputation that facilitates a positive outlook and a belief that association with the business makes those associated with it better.

Aspirational Taglines

Advertising can be a very effective tool for capturing the sentiment of an aspirational reputation. Consider these slogans and you should see what we mean:

  • We bring good things to life
  • Be all you can be
  • I think, therefore IBM
  • Just Do It
  • Think Different
  • We Try Harder
  • The Few. The Proud. The Marines.
  • Don’t be Evil

Of course, there’s much more to a company’s reputation than a slogan or tagline, but they help illustrate the concept. In addition, when a company with an aspirational reputation moves on from a specific slogan that can also indicate a shift in focus that will ultimately change the culture and reputation. Some might argue that GE dropping We Bring Good Things to Life coincided with a challenging period of change for the company.

In most cases, great taglines come long after a fundamental philosophy and culture are formulated by leaders and influencers. In some cases, the actual terms are formulated by leaders and influencers.  For instance, Thomas J. Watson first used the slogan Think in 1911 before IBM was formed and three-quarters of a century before the slogan “I think, therefore IBM” was coined.

Impact of Aspirational Reputation

Similarly, Google’s Don’t be evil manifesto was put forward nearly two decades ago by influential employees. This employee engagement is consistent with its more open and participatory style. Of course, some might argue whether the manifesto is controlling, but you can still see how it affects decisions. Interestingly, their willingness to forgo expediency and short-term gains in the early years may have helped deliver long-term success for Google.

These examples reflect the aspirational reputations of world-class companies, but they are important for emerging companies too. Ultimately, finding ways to inspire stakeholders can yield great value. Motivated employees are more productive, and often more innovative and engaged. Investors are more enthusiastic about the company and less likely to create distractions by finding fault. Customers find products more desirable and show greater brand loyalty. Communities welcome those who bring opportunity and elevate the region’s status.

Institutional Inspiration

How do you inspire stakeholders? Often it starts with the leader of the enterprise. Leaders inspire in many ways and the choices often reflect the leader’s individual style. They can inspire through principles, actions, ideas or even art. If that inspiration causes stakeholders to see the potential greatness of the enterprise, then that will begin an aspirational reputation. The leader may be essential to the effort but is rarely able to do it alone.

institutional inspiration aspirational reputation

Even a cursory study of change management demonstrates the importance of coordinated and consistent efforts to promote change. Since communication and motivation are so important, here are ten steps to help establish institutional inspiration:

  1. CEO presentations to all employees and various stakeholder groups, through video, blog, speech or announcement
  2. CEO discussions with executives to reinforce messages and secure buy-in
  3. Management team presentations to their reports and group meetings
  4. Town hall meetings
  5. Stories in internal publications, video or intranet
  6. Messaging in public speeches, analyst and community meetings
  7. Incorporate messages in web and promotional materials
  8. Consider updating boilerplate, vision and values
  9. Awards and recognition for those who demonstrate the inspirational change
  10. Incorporate in advertising and branding

Comprehensive Aspirational Reputation Program

Reinforcing the message across several channels is important in creating institutional inspiration, which will lead to an aspirational reputation. Furthermore, to resonate with audiences and seem authentic, you should go further than repetition. For instance, appeal to different styles by incorporating several genres into your communication programs. Corporate communications, advertising, and marketing can be important partners in these efforts.

Imagine the president of your company speaking from the heart about your organization’s potential for greatness and then positively reinforcing this with people throughout the enterprise. Now add uplifting theme music such as Classical Gas and people will start associating your positive messages and the uplifting music. Now create visual design and carefully researched slogans that reinforce culturally authentic messaging. The result could be a truly aspirational reputation that makes stakeholders want to be associated with your company.

Authenticity Yields Authentic Reputation

Authenticity Yields Authentic Reputation

Authenticity allows us to like what we like and dismiss what we don’t, without value judgments. It can generate enormous brand loyalty. It has enriched social media influencers. For some, it’s the single most influential factor in determining stakeholder support. Authenticity is that secret sauce that conveys the consistent image that people rely upon. When combined with the real qualities that people attribute to businesses, they create the very powerful force of an authentic reputation.

To illustrate these concepts, we’ve created a story about authentic reputation and its importance to business success. When we finish we will offer five keys to protecting authenticity. We will use two fictional companies and their leaders. Both companies had great brands and their success was envied by many. They each cultivated authentic reputations that ensured strong stakeholder support. The companies, Real Products and Unlimited Energy, were at the threshold of global success.

authenticity authentic reputation

The Calculating Model

Real Products was a closely held company that had methodically built itself from a cleaning contractor to a major conglomerate. The CEO of Real Products was cold and calculating. He brilliantly used data analytics to his advantage. While fully capable of winning in direct competition, he often discretely maneuvered to co-opt the competition.

He used elaborate structures to win over stakeholders. While customers, employees, and communities might not get the best deal from Real Products, it was much better than if they crossed him. He wanted to effectively control his business lines globally. Of course, he cared about money, but power and control were stronger drivers. He had an authentic reputation for winning through careful analysis and calculation. Investors and other stakeholders supported him, so they would not lose to Real Products.

The Bold Model

Unlimited Energy had been the most popular brand in the world with operations in every country. For generations, it was the biggest, best and most widely admired corporation, but over time it faltered. Activist investors gained control and brought in new management.

For this job, Unlimited Energy chose a bold, brash and supremely confident CEO. He had radically transformed several other companies. While a couple of those companies had to be broken up and sold, all his ventures enriched his investors. This new CEO promised to restore Unlimited Energy to global dominance and make all investors wealthy in the process.

Predictably, Unlimited Energy’s reputation morphed into one closer to the supreme self-confidence of their CEO. Investors flocked to Unlimited Energy’s can do, take no prisoners attitude. Unlimited Energy gained the authentic reputation as the company that would always come out on top. It wasn’t enough just to win; Unlimited Energy must dominate.

authentic reputation

The Strategy

Real Products and Unlimited Energy were the most effective competitors in the markets that were open to them. They were first or second in every market. When one of them wasn’t in a market, the other was usually twice as big as the next competitor.

The CEO of Unlimited Energy realized that together they could easily pick off the more profitable parts of their smaller competitors. He decided they should talk rather than fight head-to-head and squeeze each other’s margins. A preliminary discussion between the two CEOs was set while they were both at Davos.

To simplify the story let’s assume they weren’t covered by the Sherman Antitrust Act or other regulations. The activist investors were all crowing about how Unlimited Energy would dominate even these preliminary talks.

The Collaboration

When they met, the Real Products CEO was true to his nature. He had analyzed every aspect of the possibilities and developed a comprehensive plan for absorbing 60% of their competitors. The remaining 40% was consolidated under several allied businesses, to soften opposition.

The plan doubled the business volumes for Real Products and Unlimited Energy. In addition, they agreed not to compete on price. The cumulative effect would triple earnings in two years.  The plan far exceeded the Unlimited Energy CEO’s wildest expectations and he immediately agreed.

authentic reputation

Since they were already at a global forum, they announced the agreement that afternoon. The additional publicity would reward the activist investors and improve the companies’ ability to raise capital for the acquisitions.

At the announcement, the Unlimited Energy CEO tried to cement the deal by praising his colleague. He told participants he was humbled by the brilliant strategy and grateful that the Real Products CEO wanted to work with Unlimited Energy. “Our stockholders will never again have to worry about their investments,” he said. “Real Products has ensured extraordinary returns.”

The Unlimited Energy investors who prided themselves on dominating the market were furious when they saw their CEO defer to his biggest competitor. Then they figured out that the remaining 40% would be owned by companies under Real Products’ control. Instead of an equal deal, their CEO had been hoodwinked into ceding control of 60% of the market to their competitor. They dumped their Unlimited Energy stock and the darling of Wall Street became a paper tiger without any authenticity.

Importance of Authenticity

The lesson is simple. Authenticity must be part of your nature. You need to be honest, open and consistent about this. If you try to deceive, it will be discovered.

In our story, the Unlimited Energy CEO presented himself as a businessman who was very confident in his own ability to control situations. So long as people’s experiences supported that image, it represented an authentic reputation. The challenge came when there was a disconnect. When people saw a deferential demeanor in the announcement it undermined their confidence in his ability to control.

authentic reputation

Authenticity is particularly important in crisis situations. In crisis communications, audiences can be hypersensitive and critical. If they find any inconsistencies in your behavior, they may dwell on them until they become insurmountable problems.

Five Ways to Protect Authentic Reputation

How do you avoid the inconsistencies that undermine your authentic reputation? If you can remain true to five principles of behavior you should be able to maintain your authentic reputation. They are:

  1. Honesty – You and your business should be honest about your true nature from the start. If your reputation still fits your character today, continued honesty should ring true.
  2. Integrity – Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Likewise, stand up for your beliefs. If you find that your organization is changing, then address it as it occurs. Don’t wait for a crisis to advise stakeholders.
  3. Transparency – This doesn’t mean releasing proprietary or confidential information, but there should be a reason to keep information confidential. For other things that can impact stakeholders, transparency should be the norm.
  4. Values – The company’s values should be meaningful and influence behaviors. Use values to guide your behaviors and your authentic reputation will naturally be closer to your real priorities.
  5. Compassion – While it’s not a requirement for authenticity, compassion affects others’ perceptions. If you demonstrate compassion for others, they will be much more likely to show the same for you. If you want to get the benefit of the doubt, you need to give it.

Authenticity strengthens your company’s reputation. Remain true to your values and nurture consistent behaviors, even when it’s inconvenient. This will yield an authentic reputation that will serve you well when you need it most.

Fake Opposition in the Age of Conspiracy

Fake Opposition in the Age of Conspiracy

For many years I dismissed most conspiracy theories as superstitious ramblings of people who mistook institutional incompetence for nefarious intent. Not anymore! If you observed the Strzok hearing or the Russian Indictments last week, you know conspiracy theories are alive and well in the United States. The world has changed, and the pace of change has accelerated. The challenge in this new age of conspiracies is knowing whether it is real or fake opposition, and what to do.

If you are purely reactive, it may not even matter much whether it’s fake opposition. It will feel real to many and that may be enough to spell the end for you and your business. Conversely, you may avoid being a victim by being prepared and proactive. To better understand this conspiracy trend, let’s look at last week’s news and see what it can tell us.

fake opposition conspiracy

In the case of Strzok, many people believe he is a member of the deep state who is out to get the President. For many others, it is an abuse of power by those who will defend the President at all costs.  In the case of the Russia indictments, it could be a case of the deep state manufacturing these charges to undermine the elected President of the United States. Alternatively, it could be a case of a foreign power deliberately conspiring to undermine U.S. elections.

It’s disturbing that many people react just as violently against fake opposition as they do toward real enemies. They may even sacrifice their core values to combat fake opposition. Sadly, if they took the time to learn it was fake, they could have kept their integrity intact. Watch this phenomenon carefully, so you too don’t fall victim.

Communication Conspiracies

Even in years past, we all knew that some conspiracies existed, such as in espionage and criminal matters. Nevertheless, there were limits. For instance, I didn’t believe the Apollo moon landing was faked or that  Area 51 was only a front for extraterrestrial studies. However, I still don’t know what I think about Roswell. Frankly, I also didn’t want to believe that a friend or colleague would intentionally deceive me or fabricate information.

The world has changed. Well-documented conspiracies are already underway. Some of these communication conspiracies are from foreign influences. Other conspiracies are manufactured right here in the good old USA. There are simply too many tools available to create artificial opposition and too much to be gained. It’s not just your imagination anymore.

That doesn’t mean we want you to instantly distrust your best buddy. We don’t want to destroy all your enjoyment by having you obsess over intrusions.  Instead, we want you to be aware and careful to explore who’s telling you what and why, before you act.

Businesses’ Role and Exposure

We are going through a time when the rules are changing, concurrent with the ability to manipulate and distort facts. Economic and social institutions are being massively disrupted, with people lashing out at each other as they struggle for control. Government officials, interest groups, and even religious sects are fighting each other rather than preparing us all to better manage our future.

Increasingly, businesses and executives are stepping forward to try to make things better. Your first reaction might be that people are just expecting too much, but it probably has more to do with businesses’ vested interests.

Interest groups view the current situation as a zero-sum game of “our way or the wrong way.” On the other hand, businesses are all about building the value of their enterprise and want to do what they can to prevent harm. Politicians dismiss an opponent as just “one of them.” In contrast, a business sees that person as connected to scores of others. That one person could use word of mouth to damage or promote the business with thousands of potential customers.

fake opposition conspiracy

The Problem of Fake Opposition

You may have heard of scams where digital calls wait for you to say “yes” so they can charge you.  There are also cases where a scammer uses a fake email address or cell number to mimic a decision maker’s identity. In far too many instances, this allows them to trick bookkeepers into issuing large payments to the wrong people.

These examples show how far people are willing to go for the right financial incentive. In fact, they are quite good at it. Stories and impressions will also work. A news or gossip scam can be just as effective as a phone scam, and far more damaging.  While some are tired of fake news claims, we need to recognize their potential impact.

Consider what would happen if businesses were attacked by fake opposition. Instead of waiting for you to do something wrong, your detractors could just roll out one fake opposition front after another. It’s a nightmare scenario! Don’t wait for it to happen. Prepared now.

What to Do

Whether your business is a direct target or just collateral damage, you’ll probably feel the sting of fake opposition. You want to inoculate your business with a strong, positive reputation. Support your reputation with a robust and effective communication plan that includes strengthening stakeholder relationships. Don’t just store communication tools for an emergency. Regularly test, sharpen and exercise those tools so they are more effective.

fake opposition communication conspiracy

Furthermore, you want to be sure you are using the right tool for the correct job. Be sure the fake opposition problem you think you have identified is the real problem. With the extraordinarily powerful threats of weaponized media and AI reputation stitching we’ve described in previous posts, a dedicated attacker can inflict grave damage. Their communication conspiracy can ruin relationships with your stakeholders.

It may be tempting to launch a broadside counterattack against the local activist group that appears to be your problem. Before you do that, make sure it’s not fake opposition. Delve deeper and learn whether someone more dangerous isn’t supplying them with the information or resources. There are experts who can help you with this. Let us know if you need suggestions.

If you have any reason to suspect fake opposition, you want to know who is really against you. Otherwise, you’re fighting fires that could pop up anywhere. Worse yet, if you try to resolve the issue with the fake opposition, you could find you’re negotiating with yourself. In this age of conspiracy, knowing your real opposition can be just as important as what to do.

Technical Surveillance Countermeasures

Technical Surveillance Countermeasures

Do you feel secure? Are you concerned about corporate espionage? Most people are focused on their physical security and cybersecurity. That’s good because there are real risks and steps you can take to counter those risks. However, you also need to look outside these boxes to other forms of surveillance and corporate espionage that can threaten your business and privacy. We’ll walk you through some of these threats and the technical surveillance countermeasures you can take.

corporate espionage

Let’s start this discussion with a quick review of physical security and cybersecurity issues. After that, we’ll get to some of the corporate espionage and technical surveillance stuff that only James Bond 007 knew. While few could counter a dedicated assault from a major government, that’s still a small fraction of the risk.  Fortunately, there’s much you can do to address 99+% of the risks. We’ll walk you through these technical surveillance countermeasures later in this post.

Physical Security

Innocent people have been the victims of too many recent school, church, event and newspaper shootings.  Our institutions and society are scrambling to address these vulnerabilities through greater training, increased use of off-duty police and technology. Smart institutions are also conducting in-depth security vulnerability assessments and creating robust security plans to counter these risks.

We also need to better prepare everyone to protect themselves. Many institutions are already doing this. In fact, we’ve provided online security awareness training to several clients. If you know anyone who needs this training, we’ve posted a two-minute clip on the run/hide/fight protocol from one of our training programs. You are welcome to share it as much as you want. While it’s not a cure for every circumstance, it will help in most.

Cybersecurity

Hacks, data breaches, denial of service and other cyber assaults have been real threats for many years. Companies dedicate significant resources to defending against and combating these assaults. We usually bring in experts for these cases, due to the complexity of cybersecurity issues. Recently, digital threats have started to impact corporate and personal reputations as well. Please see our posts on the emerging threats of AI reputation stitching and weaponized media, for information on two of the more worrisome developments.

In a related development, California’s new data privacy law has been capturing headlines and demonstrating the growing concern over privacy. It is advancing a growing U.S. debate over privacy protections. The California law is focused on protecting consumers, but businesses have real privacy concerns, as well. For many businesses, the data privacy law itself also increases their risks and potential liability.

Technical Surveillance – Corporate Espionage – Spied on at Home or the Car

Being the target of technical surveillance is a real security and privacy threat. While many large companies recognize the reality of corporate espionage, others may brush this off as a spy novel fantasy. Don’t let this lull you into complacency. It’s not just secretive governmental organizations that engage in corporate espionage. It could also be your competitor down the street, an opponent trying to catch your misdeeds or a private investor trying to make a killing in the market.

The risks should be clear if you simply consider whether you have conversations or information shared in your office that would give others a competitive advantage.   Now, factor in your vulnerability. This could be as simple as the number of people (visitors, delivery, maintenance, custodial and security personnel) who have access to your office in a typical week. Taken together, this should be enough to concern you.

technical surveillance countermeasures

A quick search online will reveal a ready supply of sophisticated yet inexpensive office items that contain hidden video and audio transmitters (Nanny Cams).  It’s easy to place one of these devices in your office, car or even your home without your knowledge.  What’s more, most people would not even notice the devices.

It doesn’t matter whether the technical surveillance stems from a corporate espionage attempt on your company or just a private matter that has become unmanageable. In either case, the bad guys can invade your life with little money and no special tradecraft skills.

Ease and Speed of Technical Surveillance

It only takes a second to place some devices. Even worse, you probably won’t be aware, even if you are there. It can happen while you’re greeting the person putting it in place.   Imagine what could be done by someone alone and unobserved with five minutes and a screwdriver.  Who’s vetting the individuals with access to your office to be sure they’re not representing the interests of your competitors or opponents?

Can someone walk down your street and easily get access to the electric and utility connections outside your home?  Did you watch the workmen when they remodeled or the cable people during their repeat visits?  It’s not just what they might steal that matters but also what they might intentionally leave behind.

technical surveillance countermeasures

Another risk is the white noise generators above the ceiling tiles in most offices. They can also be used to capture sounds and newer models are IP addressable. This means they can be hacked and your conversations monitored.

Tracking your vehicle is as simple as walking by and placing an inexpensive magnetic device anywhere under the edge of your car. This takes less time than a sneeze. Similarly, camouflaged game hunting cameras available at many superstores can easily be placed on shrubbery or trees. Once in place, they allow remote viewing of your home from any place. It might even be the car around the corner.

Technical Surveillance Countermeasures

Our corporate security practice and the special security groups we use have seen all of this and much more. In response, we have developed and used various technical surveillance countermeasures for clients. These surveillance countermeasures ensure clients’ offices, homes, vehicles, hotels and meeting facilities are clear of eavesdropping, geolocating, or other surveillance devices.

It’s a mixed blessing when we discover a monitoring device during a room sweep. On one side, it confirms the value of implementing technical surveillance countermeasures. On the other side, there is enormous effort needed to reconstruct what may have been revealed. Then there’s even more effort needed to mitigate the damage if that’s possible. By the way, if we find a device in one place, you’d be wise to check other sensitive areas, as well

Fortunately, there are processes and technical countermeasures that allow us to discover the devices and reduce future risks. These include periodic sweeps, enhanced access control, and other reasonable technical surveillance countermeasures. Guard privacy at home through Residential Security Assessments and confidentiality at work through Technical Surveillance Countermeasures. This will go far in avoiding threats that could create a real crisis for your business or personal life.

AI Reputation Stitching – The Unexpected Threat

AI Reputation Stitching – The Unexpected Threat

If something could destroy your professional reputation or your business in the next few months or years, would you try to avoid it or at least take steps to minimize the damage? If the answer is yes, let’s discuss AI Reputation Stitching, the new vulnerability in corporate and personal reputations from advances in artificial intelligence. Everything from proprietary corporate information to previously discreet or private actions and words are now vulnerable to discovery from numerous sources. Worse still, this AI reputation intrusion is making it possible to stitch together bits from thousands of sources to directly counter perceptions and reputations you may have spent decades building.

AI reputation stitching

Why AI Reputation Stitching is relevant

If you’re not already interested, let me ask these questions. Are you conversant about artificial intelligence or AI? Are you an emergency management, reputation management or corporate communications professional? Do you have several days of emergency supplies or a hurricane evacuation plan? Do you practice risk management or even take it to the next level as a corporate crisis prepper? Are you at all concerned about corporate or personal privacy? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you have the capacity to prepare for and change the worst outcomes from this unexpected AI stitching threat. Please keep reading.

While advances in artificial intelligence have driven its acronym, AI, into common usage, most of us are more focused on the curiosities of AI vs. human competitions in chess, Go or Jeopardy than the implications of how it will change our lives. Watson’s recent debate demonstrated how the AI platform could study the issues in real time while the debate was underway and successfully match the carefully developed arguments of an expert human debater. Similar AI capabilities can be used to focus AI on sifting through enormous amounts of data and quickly stitching together the pieces to form an accurate picture of you or your company that can serve as an AI reputation alternative to the organic reputation you worked so hard to build.

While this threat has not fully emerged, except in focused and rarified environments, it will likely confront more of us in the coming months and years. We call it Reputation Stitching. As these emerging artificial intelligence capabilities develop into advanced AI reputation stitching, there is an opportunity to proactively minimize damage and even improve the prospects for positive results. The challenge is what to do to anticipate and overcome our all too human personal and corporate flaws.

artificial intelligence

Is AI stitching real?

First, let’s consider a couple of recently published developments in AI stitching. One is the impressive and intriguing machine learning advances by Google in their still imperfect photo stitch capabilities. The other is the enormously promising efforts in healthcare data stitching that are still far shy of their potential.  Despite their flaws and limitations, the potential of these AI stitching pursuits makes it clear that advances are being rapidly achieved and they will transform our capabilities, reputation risks, and understanding of the world.

Google’s AI stitching to produce professional-caliber photos shows the capability is real and can touch everyday life. When healthcare stitching is widely adopted it will fundamentally change the precision and effectiveness of healthcare. Also, since patient privacy is guarded under HIPAA, there will likely be fewer risks than in some of the other emerging AI stitching capabilities, but the consequences could be enormous. With the continued prevalence of hacking and data theft, even HIPAA and the best efforts of everyone in healthcare may not be enough to completely secure this personal information in every instance.

reputation stitching through AI

Reputation Trends and Risks

Now, look at several recent examples of personal and corporate reputation damage from actions taken more than a decade ago. Consider how the #MeToo movement has encouraged people to come forward even years later and the impact this has had on powerful people such as Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey. Likewise, dedicated investigations have yielded prosecution and litigation for actions allegedly taken by Paul Manafort and  ExxonMobil more than a decade ago. These examples show how personal recollections and dedicated prosecution can find decades-old evidence that is still compelling enough to destroy reputations today.

Now if you extend these developments with our thirst for sensationalism, the explosion of surprisingly credible fabricated content (fake news), and the extraordinary threat of weaponized media you should have more than enough to keep you up at night. In this world, the potential for real or fabricated information to seriously damage reputation is enormous!

 

AI reputation stitching

Warren Buffett probably wasn’t thinking about reputation stitching when he said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it,” but he certainly anticipated the consequences if artificial intelligence uncovers and profiles the sins of the past.  A business’ social license to operate is intertwined with its reputation and once you lose one, you will likely lose the other.  This is the reason we are so concerned about the emerging risk of AI reputation stitching.

Sources of Data for AI Reputation Stitching

The same capabilities that can process overwhelming volumes of data and identify the threads that result in an accurate diagnosis and treatment in healthcare data stitching will soon be more broadly available to create AI driven reputation stitching insights into professionals and businesses. Just look at the Enron dataset of nearly half a million emails from over 150 Enron executives that FERC released into the public domain in 2002. These have already been extensively studied and dramatically contributed to the development of AI stitching capabilities for extracting meaningful data from our communications.

artificial intelligence AI stitching

The extraordinary public insights into these executives, some of whom were only guilty of being collateral damage in the Enron fiasco, have likely changed their lives forever. Now add the disclosures about Facebook data being freely shared with researchers and foreign businesses, along with the truly extraordinary volume of data available about our search histories, messages, movements and conversations. You may see how stitching together even a fraction of that information could be used to irreparably damage reputations.

If you find this hard to believe, that’s understandable. Our brains are conditioned to put things in the context of our past experiences and great departures are often difficult to fathom. So, let’s just consider how most personal devices are set to track individuals’ movements and how video surveillance is becoming ubiquitous. Between security cameras, dash cams and our penchant for recording life on our cell phones and then transferring it to social media, there are countless images recorded. With advances in facial and even smile recognition software, we are not far from tracking movements and then identifying what people are doing when they are at those specific locations.

AI reputation

In fact, this is already done with greater frequency than you might imagine, but it is still somewhat limited by the current resources needed to sift through the enormous volumes of data. With the exponential advances in machine learning, we will soon be able to process great volumes of data with enormous efficiency and minimal human involvement. With our new world of artificial intelligence, the advent of AI reputation stitching will soon be upon us.

What You Can Do

So, why are we telling you this? Do we get some perverted pleasure in alarming people? No, it’s because the world of reputation management is about to experience transformative change and you can reduce the risks to your professional and business reputation if you act now. Once AI stitching can decipher a large part of everything we’ve done, it will be nearly impossible to spin a story or manage your reputation without at least some people having the facts to counter the reality you are trying to present. We have long advised against spinning and manipulating information, but soon it may very easy to contradict your spin with compelling facts from reputation stitching.

The best defense will be for your business to consider its actions and behaviors, and proactively work to improve flaws it identifies. You may gain the benefit of the doubt and if you act before the issue is uncovered by others, you might avoid the matter altogether. Any action to address a problem is helpful, but government officials and the public are increasingly demanding that businesses identify their own problems and address them before someone else exposes them. So, act soon.

AI stitching assessment

Your first step should be to conduct a comprehensive vulnerability assessment.  This should be conducted by a third party, which will reduce the risk of bias or underweighting real issues. This vulnerability assessment can be as limited or expansive as you wish, covering media and social media reviews, executive background investigations, or interviews and additional investigation. If you decide to do this, we can walk you through how to protect confidentially and manage the process with appropriate sensitivity. Once you have identified the vulnerabilities, you will want to proactively utilize reputation management and crisis communications processes to work through the range of possible responses, develop a plan to address and message the issues, and take appropriate action.

Those who prioritize the future of their businesses and reputations will understand that any action will be far more effective if you work proactively before someone else uncovers an issue. To minimize the impact of reputation stitching, the time to act is now, before your AI reputation becomes the new reality.

Pandemic Preparedness Plans

Do you remember the tragic flu outbreak several months ago? Did you respond by testing your pandemic plans and pandemic preparedness? You may recall that the flu vaccines were not as effective as normal against this strain and many hospitals and healthcare facilities were seriously stretched in combating the illness. Some hospitals were using triage tents to better address and contain the illness outside of their emergency departments.  Even healthy young adults seem to have had difficulty combating this strain, which is reminiscent of the 1918 H1N1 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 50 to 100 million people, back when the world’s population was only a little more than 2 billion.

pandemic preparedness plans

We may think what happened a century ago isn’t relevant in our highly advanced, modern world, but we should be careful that we don’t underestimate the impact of our dramatic global shift toward urbanization, rapid travel, strained supply chains and increasing evolution of drug-resistant diseases. The risk of another pandemic is substantial and it is extraordinarily difficult to accurately predict which pathogen will present itself as the next pandemic.

The Atlantic has just published a superb article by Ed Yong that describes the threat and responses that are underway. While much is being done, you’ll read that the risk has even the perpetually optimistic Bill Gates concerned. With some 600,000 to 800,000 unknown bird and animal pathogens with the potential to become threats to humans, we cannot know what will strike next.

Houston pandemic preparedness plans

With the traditional effectiveness of flu vaccines and relatively modest impact of outbreaks in most recent years, we may be underestimating the risks of a disease pandemic. This in combination with massive and reasonably effective responses to the Ebola and Zika viruses, have left many with a sense of complacency. Many also marginalize the flu as a relatively mild disease, which is a surprising impression given that globally the flu kills about half a million people in an average year.

In addition to health risks to their employees and families, companies will want to take steps to avoid the serious work disruptions that may occur in a pandemic, by reviewing and testing their pandemic plans and preparedness. A flu pandemic has been estimated to cause a five percent loss in productivity, but this could be further exacerbated in the highly concentrate office environments of a major city.

Houston Texas pandemic plans preparedness

In our Houston, Texas offices we are very aware of the risks of a pandemic, the speed of transport and global exposure of our population. With a major international airport, an enormous international port, the world’s energy capital and the largest medical center in the world, we have people moving through Houston from every part of the world every day. If a disease is not isolated at its source, it will likely make its way to Houston or any other city and more quickly than we would hope.

This presents strong personal and business reasons to take reasonable pandemic preparedness steps. Developing pandemic plans that include preparations, risk minimization communications and operational changes during a health crisis can make a considerable difference. Simple steps such as encouraging employees and their families to receive inoculations can be particularly helpful in a country where only 45 percent of the population normally receives flu vaccinations.

pandemic preparedness plans

Likewise, promoting increased measures of workplace hygiene and sanitation can be beneficial as both a mitigative and combative effort. Just as we have seen workplace safety programs increase employees’ attention to safety outside of work, greater emphasis on workplace hygiene will likely translate into greater use by employees’ families outside of work. An annual employee communication on disease prevention would be a small cost to better protect the company from disruptions, while simultaneously demonstrating an interest in the welfare of employees and their families.

Our hospital and healthcare clients are very aware of the threats, they regularly evaluate their pandemic plans and preparedness, and take steps to better address their systems’ vulnerabilities. Still, we need to recognize that our global health systems are not designed for a maximum event at every facility all the time, so supply chains and resources often are stretched in crisis situations such as a pandemic.

Recognizing this risk, many health systems’ pandemic plans build in additional contingencies to ensure adequate capabilities. Businesses can take a cue from these pandemic preparedness plans by also securing the basic supplies they may need in a pandemic during normal times, so they are better prepared when a pandemic crisis occurs.

pandemic preparedness plans

In the last decade, global businesses have developed and tailored sophisticated pandemic plans for worst-case scenarios. While the global businesses’ plans are usually very specific in application, those plans are seldom, if ever, functionally tested.  Before we hit flu season in this centennial of the 1918 pandemic is the perfect time to dust off those plans and ensure that they still work given organizational and process changes that may have occurred since the plans were developed.

It is an opportunity for training and to find gaps in pandemic preparedness measures before we encounter situations that can be infinitely worse.  And at the most elemental level, these practices are also good for employees, stakeholders, and the bottom line.

If you’re reading this and aren’t familiar with the pandemic plans mentioned here or words such as epidemic, pneumonic, social distancing, hygiene etiquette, transmission cycles, PPE, or administrative versus engineering controls, then it’s time to revisit the topic personally or as an organization.  We can walk you through the issues and needs. If you do not have pandemic plans, we can help you formulate plans that are appropriate to your needs and the threats you may face.

Pandemic preparedness is even more important when the organization is critical to the public infrastructure, such as energy, transportation, and health care providers, and other such groups in a high density, lean staffing setting.  It doesn’t take many employees becoming ill to shut down operations or severely impact administrative environments.

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Email: info@corporatecrisisgroup.com

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