Internal communication has become a critical part of how companies think about crisis. As we know, some of the best ways to limit damage from a crisis are planning and preparing. Thinking through potential crisis situations, creating a response plan and practicing regularly can help an organization reduce fallout from a crisis or reputation disaster, if not avoid it from happening in the first place.
We expected good things from 2021. Instead, it delivered large doses of frustrating virus protocols, political turmoil, mistrust, disinformation and reputation gaffes. Classic PR blunders generated headlines when leaders failed to learn from history. Here are a few cautionary tales as we look to 2022.
This month’s dialogue takes a slight variation from our usual route. We won’t explore an operational topic, such as ‘What to do during a crisis when your CEO goes off-script.’ Instead, as it’s nearly 2022, we’ve asked two crisis communicators to consider 2021 trends and discuss what they believe 2022 will bring. Our dialoguers are Sonia Diaz, SVP, Balsera Communications and president, Hispanic Public Relations Association USA (HPRA) and Jenelle Eli, senior director, media relations + international communications, American Red Cross.
Some learnings emerged from our survey of nearly 300 communicators conducted in October and November 2021. The most newsworthy was what issues are concerning crisis pros. Besides COVID, they include: DEI, misinformation/disinformation, activism, cyber, natural disasters and employee/executive misconduct.
Jes Staley wasn’t the first financial-sector heavyweight to step down after reports surfaced that he had ties with the late, notorious Jeffrey Epstein. Preceding the CEO of Barclays to the exits was billionaire Leon Black, CEO and chairman of Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm. Similarities between the Staley and Black stories are useful for crisis communicators.
Reading McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski’s ill-conceived comments about recent shooting deaths of two children in Chicago (including one in a McDonald’s drive-thru) prompted out contributor to write about the Emotional Intelligence Quotient, or EQ.
While smaller companies have less room for error during a crisis, crisis pros argue a mix of preparation and free or low-cost tools can provide a solid foundation before one begins.