Insights

A crisis is no time for consensus: Lessons from COVID-19

Posted by
Angela Carmichael
Insights

A crisis is no time for consensus: Lessons from COVID-19

Écrit par
Angela Carmichael

As a public relations agency, we are adept at helping our clients communicate during crisis. In fact, at any given point in the year, we typically have at least one client dealing with what we’d define as a crisis – where their business is vulnerable and they need to move very quickly to minimize impact to their reputation, their employees, their external stakeholders and, of course, their shareholders.

But what happens when virtually all our clients find themselves faced with that one playbook in the crisis manual that we all knew had the potential to happen, but hoped like hell never would?

Whether a pandemic or cyber breach, the same principles still apply

When I think about the many discussions we’ve had with our clients in recent weeks, it’s not dissimilar to the reaction we often hear from a CEO or business leader that has fallen victim to a cyber incident.

Just as every company knows being hacked is a matter of when not if, we all knew the possibility of a pandemic existed. Like cyber experts, health care experts have been warning us for years that this was coming, and still, we were not ready.  

While COVID-19 is of course much more devastating than a cyber breach because of the heavy human cost, there is another similarity between this pandemic and a cyber breach: Everyone it touches is a victim and businesses are never the same after.

What’s interesting to me as we work with our own clients, watch the news each night and see corporations and leaders react, is that the same principles of crisis communications still apply.

Like any good crisis resolution, the companies that will emerge victorious (albeit bruised and tattered) are those that are led by CEOs and business leaders who are acting decisively while empowering their teams to put the best interest of their customers, employees and community first.

Leaders must react swiftly

The companies and individuals that are emerging from the pack to provide much-needed leadership are the ones that are reacting swiftly – with grace and authority, while at the same time putting stakeholders, not shareholders first.

A crisis is not the time for consensus decision making. Many companies around the world have been spinning their wheels the last few weeks on large-team video conference calls, trying to come up with marketing schemes to let their employees, customers and surrounding community know they are ready to help and support them.

However, if it takes more than 24 hours to decide on a course of action, you’ve tipped your hat. Your company is reacting with a shareholder mentality.

Like any good crisis resolution, the companies that will emerge victorious (albeit bruised and tattered) are those that are led by CEOs and business leaders who are acting decisively while empowering their teams to put the best interest of their customers, employees and community first.

Could have, should have, would have

If you can do something to help the world through this – do it now (not next week when you have company-wide agreement and sign off from the Board).

If you should do something that can help your employees, customers or community through this – do it now, as today’s stakeholders will remember and reward you over time with their loyalty.

If you are going to look back in a year and say, I wish I would have reacted with more decisiveness and selflessness, then stop now and look in the mirror.

Leaders are born in crisis, not after the smoke already clears.

If your organization needs support or advice in these uncertain times, here’s where you can find the latest news, insights and resources related to COVID-19.

As a public relations agency, we are adept at helping our clients communicate during crisis. In fact, at any given point in the year, we typically have at least one client dealing with what we’d define as a crisis – where their business is vulnerable and they need to move very quickly to minimize impact to their reputation, their employees, their external stakeholders and, of course, their shareholders.

But what happens when virtually all our clients find themselves faced with that one playbook in the crisis manual that we all knew had the potential to happen, but hoped like hell never would?

Whether a pandemic or cyber breach, the same principles still apply

When I think about the many discussions we’ve had with our clients in recent weeks, it’s not dissimilar to the reaction we often hear from a CEO or business leader that has fallen victim to a cyber incident.

Just as every company knows being hacked is a matter of when not if, we all knew the possibility of a pandemic existed. Like cyber experts, health care experts have been warning us for years that this was coming, and still, we were not ready.  

While COVID-19 is of course much more devastating than a cyber breach because of the heavy human cost, there is another similarity between this pandemic and a cyber breach: Everyone it touches is a victim and businesses are never the same after.

What’s interesting to me as we work with our own clients, watch the news each night and see corporations and leaders react, is that the same principles of crisis communications still apply.

Like any good crisis resolution, the companies that will emerge victorious (albeit bruised and tattered) are those that are led by CEOs and business leaders who are acting decisively while empowering their teams to put the best interest of their customers, employees and community first.

Leaders must react swiftly

The companies and individuals that are emerging from the pack to provide much-needed leadership are the ones that are reacting swiftly – with grace and authority, while at the same time putting stakeholders, not shareholders first.

A crisis is not the time for consensus decision making. Many companies around the world have been spinning their wheels the last few weeks on large-team video conference calls, trying to come up with marketing schemes to let their employees, customers and surrounding community know they are ready to help and support them.

However, if it takes more than 24 hours to decide on a course of action, you’ve tipped your hat. Your company is reacting with a shareholder mentality.

Like any good crisis resolution, the companies that will emerge victorious (albeit bruised and tattered) are those that are led by CEOs and business leaders who are acting decisively while empowering their teams to put the best interest of their customers, employees and community first.

Could have, should have, would have

If you can do something to help the world through this – do it now (not next week when you have company-wide agreement and sign off from the Board).

If you should do something that can help your employees, customers or community through this – do it now, as today’s stakeholders will remember and reward you over time with their loyalty.

If you are going to look back in a year and say, I wish I would have reacted with more decisiveness and selflessness, then stop now and look in the mirror.

Leaders are born in crisis, not after the smoke already clears.

If your organization needs support or advice in these uncertain times, here’s where you can find the latest news, insights and resources related to COVID-19.

Angela Carmichael
President
With over 20 years of communications experience, Angela leads our talented FleishmanHillard HighRoad team and plays an integral role helping our clients through issues, crisis management and corporate reputation initiatives. She inspires her teams to produce compelling programs that are insightful, creative and drive business success for our clients.
Angela Carmichael
Présidente
Avec plus de 20 ans d’expérience en communication, Angela dirige notre équipe de professionnels doués chez FleishmanHillard HighRoad et joue un rôle essentiel en aidant nos clients face aux enjeux, en gestion de crise et dans leurs démarches pour la réputation de leur entreprise. Elle inspire ses équipes à mettre en œuvre des programmes efficaces démontrant une grande pertinence et créativité, tout en contribuant à la réussite commerciale de nos clients.