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Three Reasons Crisis Management Fails

Dec. 4, 2020
…and how to adjust. Today’s challenges require a new understanding of crisis management and communications.

The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably renewed discussions of business crisis management, and how to plan for and preempt unforeseen disruptions, ideally emerging stronger than before.

The problem with much of the current discourse is that it largely repackages concepts and methods that are unsuited to the complex macro-economic situation, or worse have been shown to be outdated for current conditions. Novel challenges like this pandemic demand commensurately fresh thinking —to help organizations of any size survive and succeed

Crisis management experts Kiya Dowdy Frazier and Oscar Frazier described three modern-crisis management techniques are somewhat counterintuitive, but also compelling and convincingly sensible.

1. Gaining trust isn’t enough. Gaining marketplace trust, building relationships and even securing leads require radically different approaches in the post-pandemic world. People are weary of misinformation and contradictory statements from authority figures and are more jaded and doubtful now than ever before. When there is a lack of understanding, or there are credibility concerns, fear and defensiveness take over.

Gaining trust isn’t entirely futile, but rather it’s the method of connecting with people that requires change. The first step now begins with “me too.” Far beyond trust, today’s recalibrated, marketplace mindset requires relatability and authenticity on a critical-mass scale.

Many people facing the same challenges, whether related to COVID-19 impacts or otherwise, so be empathetic, approachable, and forthcoming about your own challenges and experiences.  Demonstrating that you are just as concerned and effected as the person you’re meeting is an effective way to build trust.

Before the Coronavirus wreaked havoc on the world, trust often was earned by demonstrating achievements, a high level of training, or subject-matter expertise. This sort of instant validity without emotional drivers is disappearing. Sentiment matters. Now, people need to know that you can relate to them and them to you in kind. Being able to identify with each other will be the essence of successful businesses.

2. Data management falls short.  Collecting and analyzing data to drive decision-making in an organization is no longer enough. Transparency about what that data “means” is paramount, and this is both a gift and a curse. Everyone is apt to share good news, but even a simple, unintentional oversight involving data has costs. In today’s competitive marketplace, there are fewer chances to get things right, or to make up for mistakes. It’s not sufficient to curate or manage data: businesses must interpret the data and report it truthfully.

The ability to leverage analytics for both short-and long-term modernization is key to survival. But, in the new environment we have to find ways to do more with less. There are fewer resources, fewer opportunities to make your point, and different methods of communication —even with your own teams.  Data, good or bad, is a lifeline here and processing information for highly intentional and strategic decision-making is critical.

Naturally, the first step is clearly communicating key findings. But companies often miss the second and third piece: helping the audience, internal or external, make sense of everything; and following up with a clear plan of action to mitigate risk, resolve current issues, and position themselves for a stronger future.  It is one thing to provide data, it is quite another to provide data with actionable tactics. 

Migrating content and processes to the cloud, creating shared environments, and establishing tools to strengthen communication and data access across constituencies are standard now for a growing number of organizations. This kind of tactical and readily deployable adjustment is a step toward better managing and properly leveraging data assets.

3. Messaging methods miss the mark.  Validation-driven micro-communication is where it’s at now. Rather than just asserting a position and offering talking points, an organization needs to demonstrate the impact of its messaging as specifically as possible. Everything a business conveys to its audience needs to be demonstrated with results and reference points that individuals can access. The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently virtually and remotely, is an imperative now. Companies must be mindful that there’s increased awareness of (and desire for) community, connection, humility, and social responsibility, and this should be clear in messaging. The right words conveyed with the right tone and with the proper imagery is what’s required.

“The word ‘crisis’ tends to spur a sense of panic. Even so, it’s wise to take emergency situations head-on and with a laser focus. Any crisis-management plan that tries to take on too much, or otherwise veers away from the actual and core crisis a hand, is one that’s likely to fall,” Kiya Frazier said.

“When people panic, they tend to inflate or deflate factual data to fit their own needs, desires, agenda, or gut instincts,” Oscar Frazier adds. “This is the single biggest mistake a company in crisis can make, since processing data objectively is key. Situation analysis requires taking a cold, hard look at realities and making even the most difficult—if not painful—of decisions to get back on a recuperative course.”

Today’s business challenges require a recalibrated approach to crisis management and communications. Even tried-and-true tactics of yore may deliver diminishing returns as industry and markets evolve in tandem with

Whether the crisis a business faces involves public health, political and social, or economic events these three tactical and strategic shifts will help businesses help weather the storms.

Merilee Kern is a brand analyst, strategist and futurist who reports on innovators across all B2B and B2C categories. She is founder, executive editor, and producer of “The Luxe List” as well as host of the syndicated “Savvy Living TV show. Connect with her at www.TheLuxeList.com and www.SavvyLiving.tv .