It’s one of the most perplexing questions in issue and crisis management. If executives are well aware of the devastating impact of a crisis, why don’t they assign resources to get properly crisis prepared?
Despite a continuing torrent of case studies and damaging headlines which spell out the impact of a crisis on reputation, brand, share value and the chances of corporate survival, new data just published reveals that there is little or no sign of improvement.
The latest PR News/Crisp survey of public relations professional shows that well over 25% said their organisation still did not have a crisis plan, or it hadn’t been updated for more than a year.
Moreover, more than 20% said their CEO was “not really” or “not at all” willing to invest in strong crisis preparation, and 30% said their company never or rarely conducts a risk assessment of potential reputation threats.
Given the lightning speed of social media it is particularly disheartening that 49% of the respondents also said that if a PR issue which threatened a brand crisis occurred out of office hours, they would not be alerted until the next morning or the next working day.
Have we learned nothing? As long ago as 2012 a massive global study by the Plank Institute asked public relations and communications professionals what were the most important issues they faced? Crisis preparedness ranked second in importance, just behind dealing with the speed and volume of information flow.
This decisive data came from what has been called “the largest, most comprehensive study of leadership in public relations and communication management ever conducted,” involving almost 4,500 respondents in 23 countries in nine different languages.
Since that study in 2012 the explosion of social media means the speed of information flow has increased every year, so it’s worrying that almost half of the PR professionals in the latest survey say they wouldn’t be advised about a potential crisis until the following day.
Obviously the PR people need to be asking some important questions about why. And about the need to put proper planning in place. But it’s pretty clear that real improvement can only be driven from the Executive Suite. As renowned crisis expert Ian Mitroff once wrote: “Without a champion, nothing significant will occur with regard to any major program in an organisation. This is especially true with regard to crisis management.”
However progress is likely to be slow. One global survey of board members found that fewer than half of the non-executive directors reported they had engaged with management to understand what was being done to support crisis preparedness. And only half the boards had undertaken specific discussion with management about driving crisis prevention.
The challenge is clear. The risk of failure is unquestionable. The only questions is, are you properly crisis prepared? And if not, why not?