"What is your crisis management mantra?" - That's the headline in today's TODAY paper in Singapore, which sums up in short and sweet terms what senior business leaders say is required.
The word "preparation" comes up several times.
That's not surprising. Preparation is indeed key to surviving a crisis.
What is surprising is that it even needs to be stated. Some companies simply have something of a blind spot when it comes to preparing for crises. They see it like insurance; like a "home contents" policy that they might never need. Its significance is not realised until a crisis is at hand.
I actually disagree with the analogy that crisis communications is an insurance policy; it should be part and parcel of any sustainable business. But let's play along and explore this parallel just for a second. Preparing for a crisis - which broadly means having a plan, communicating it internally, and training staff in communicating and executing it externally - is actually much more like car insurance.
- Risk is ever present - Unless you live in a seedy neighbourhood where a dozen homes are burgled or set alight every night, you might never draw on your home contents insurance. But business isn't passive. It is active every day. That means, something could go wrong every day. Just like getting behind the wheel of a car. Risk starts as soon as you turn the engine on.
- Risk impact multiple stakeholders - If your home is burgled, chances are there is only one victim: you. But in business many stakeholders will be impacted by a crisis: your staff, your customers, your suppliers, your landlord, not to mention shareholders, the public at large, and even government. This is just like the driver of a car, who could do some serious damage to people and property in their path, not just themselves and their passengers.
- Ability to cope with the aftermath - If you don't have home contents insurance, or your insurance company finds a way to reject your claim, the worst that could happen is that you will have to pay for the damaged or stolen goods yourself. This could still work out to be a tidy sum of money. But there is not likely to be anyone impacted other than yourself. Not so with car insurance, where the damages bill could be insurmountable.
- Long term impact of the crisis - Once your damaged or stolen personal effects have been replaced, the matter is closed. But business crises tend to drag on for weeks and months, if not years. Just like a car crash could also have long-lasting implications.
I don't want to make light of people who have been in the unfortunate, even tragic situation of having to make a claim on their home contents insurance. All I have tried to do is to run the parallel of "crisis communications is like insurance" to its logical conclusion. And that is: there is a very good reason why car insurance is mandatory. So, why isn't preparing for a crisis?