December 27th, 2021
Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Author of the Award-Winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways To Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey)
Taking a cue from Winston Churchill’s observation that, “Generals are always prepared to fight the last war,” business leaders should make a reality about their plans to prevent or manage a crisis at their company or organization in the new year: Will they be prepared to respond to their next crisis—or their last one?
How company executives answer this pivotal question could play a key role in their success when responding and recovering from disasters, scandals and other corporate emergencies in 2022.
To help make the right decision before a crisis lands on your doorstep, consider these predictions from my fellow crisis management experts and observers.
The Great Resignation Will Impact Corporate Risk
Veeral Gosalia is a senior managing director in FTI Consulting’s Technology segment. He said, “In the new year, I believe several side effects of the 2021 Great Resignation will increasingly impact corporate risk. Much like other crisis events in the past, [it] will spur a rise in fraudulent activity, insider threats, data leakage and IP theft, which will result in more (and more complex) legal, regulatory and internal investigations.
“To adequately respond, organizations will need to quickly address several critical areas, including governance procedures to prevent data loss, monitoring for suspicious activity and a refresh of investigation methodologies,” Gosalia advised.
More Will Follow Facebook’s Distraction Strategy
Barry Finkelstein, director of public relations at marketing communications firm Luquire, said, “Unfortunately, I think you’ll see a growing number of organizations turn to distraction instead of addressing real issues in the event of a crisis.”
“Facebook was under immense pressure from the whistleblower Frances Haugen, but after the company announced its name change all anybody wants to talk about now is how it’s trying to claim the metaverse. It may take a while but this strategy will backfire; meanwhile, other companies will be tempted to copy their approach, “he predicted.
Morgan Borer is a partner at Bevel, a communications consultancy for finance, technology and venture capital firms. “The public can see behind whatever veil a company chooses to put on—now more than ever before,” she said.
“In 2022, transparency and action are key. Companies must be transparent in their missteps and show proof of action to remedy the situation. Blindly stating ‘We will do better next time’ is not enough anymore. What actions will you take to do better? In six months, will I see a salient change? That’s what consumers need,” Borer advised.
“In the year ahead, actions will speak louder than words. And, these consumers will hold companies accountable online, especially on social media,” she predicted.
Cheryl Dixon is an adjunct professor of strategic communication at Columbia University, a communication strategy consultant and a former marketing and brand executive. She predicted that, “As consumers view the world through a global lens, companies will perform better “tone checks” to avoid perceived insensitivity that may come from a lack of understanding of global culture, events or traditions.”
Mike Davis, founding partner of private equity firm Olive Tree Ridge, thought that that companies will “likely increase the inclusivity of their approach to crisis situations. Similar to my previous prediction, this is a natural progression along the activity spectrum – from appointing ‘czars’, to task forces, to, in 2022, soliciting suggestions from a working group that is as diverse as a company’s broader stakeholders.
“This working group approach will increase the likelihood that both the WHAT and the HOW of the actions that are ultimately taken are considered and appropriate.”
Better Use Of Data
Al Park is a senior marketing director in FTI Consulting’s technology section. He pointed out that, “Over the past year, business leaders have come to fully appreciate data across the enterprise as a great resource and important asset.
“This new data awareness will evolve in 2022 as corporate officers and legal and compliance leaders realize that strong data governance and management will increasingly impact revenue, cost and risk, and become one of the primary factors in maintaining competitive differentiation.
“Organizations that are able to mature their approach to data—through sophisticated analysis and establishment of data integrity—will better understand how their organization is performing, and achieve significant progress toward converting data risks into growth opportunities.”
Communicating about crises will also change, according to Columbia University’s Dixon. “The speed of response is critical, as is the willingness of a company to apologize or admit fault where appropriate. Followed, of course, by specific action steps to rectify the situation and prevent future occurrences.”
She said that, “There will be more collaboration across departments in responding to crises and more expertise in crafting responses and internal and external messaging—with a growing understanding that a company’s internal audience is as important, if not more so, than external stakeholders.”
Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare For and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). He is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.