The best rapid-fire crisis response is one that has been carefully planned in advance. It will not come as news to anyone in the corporate world that crisis preparedness is important. What does that mean in practice, though? Can you ever be truly prepared for that crisis event no one could have foreseen? Can a generic plan ever be enough to guide you through specific situations?
So unpredictable as all that?
Let us stop there for a moment. Disaster can appear to come out of nowhere but it is possible to predict the next crisis more often than one might first think.
Firstly, there is the trade press. Trade journals in your industry can offer helpful news and intelligence in forming crisis response plans. Reading about problems a competitor is facing should be more than a cause for relief or the odd moment of schadenfreude. Instead, it is worth asking yourself uncomfortable questions about your own organisation.
How different are we, really? Could there be a sector-wide issue to think about in our own organisation? For instance, when the tax authorities publicly are delving into Google and Amazon, other tech multinationals would be well advised to think about their own PR response. Even if you have nothing to fear from an HMRC investigation, there may well be questions from a sceptical press to be prepared for.
Early warning signs
However, trade media can be an earlier-warning system than just reading the articles. Reporters will start digging around particular topics well before an article runs so take the time to get to know the people in your organisation’s press office and think about the queries they receive. What could it tell you about the trends being looked into?
Events in other sectors could also offer a glimpse into the future of your own industry. If the Information Commissioner’s Office has fined a number of lenders, it is clearly looking at businesses that routinely collect large amounts of customer data in the course of their business. What other industries could similar concerns apply to? Healthcare? Technology and telecoms?
In short, it need not be all ‘unknown unknowns’ in crisis planning. Think about issues, talk them through – perhaps even talk things through with a trusted external adviser who can bring a broader perspective to your thinking. Even crystal ball gazing can lend itself to being a little better prepared.