Ken Kelling, associate director at daviestanner, on protecting a brand during a crisis and making sure your teams are prepared.
Earlier this year, the PCMA invited davies tanner to share its expertise in crisis communication to empower events industry businesses to protect their brands and reputations should the unthinkable happen.
There are three pertinent reasons why this is an imperative for events businesses: increasing uncertainty and volatility, constant change and the increasing speed of communications.
Our frenetic digital age is transforming our lives at an unprecedented rate and ‘VUCA’ is now a commonly-used acronym to describe or reflect on the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity of the world.
By the nature of their work, event strategists are often at the cutting edge of these issues thanks to business meetings, technological innovation and digital communication. The modern working life of event strategists is perhaps more uncertain and faster changing than ever before.
We are also experiencing the fastest speed of communication of any other time in history. Stories (both true and false) rapidly go viral and fragment almost as soon as an incident takes place and we are very rarely in control of them.
The nature of events and the sheer volume of people that pass through shows, venues, and hotels mean our industry is particularly vulnerable. And, despite the many benefits of social media, businesses now also face a quadruple challenge in managing their corporate reputation online, namely:
- Increased accountability
- Increased scrutiny
- Increased scepticism
- Increased confusion over reliable sources of ‘truth’
With all of this in mind, we should be doing our utmost to expect the unexpected.
By following the steps of a cohesive crisis communication plan, your ability to protect yourself, your business and to control a crisis situation will be considerably improved.
But as someone who is also interested in coaching personal resilience, it seems to me there’s a large part of all this that’s often overlooked.
How do we personally react in a crisis situation when every fibre in our body is screaming out ‘bunny in the headlights’?
And what does it mean for leaders, managers and teams if the person who is nominally responsible for dealing with an incident can’t cope?
I think the answer lies in the same principles for good crisis communications – preparation and habits. If the first time you’ve done a TV interview is when someone is shoving a camera in your face asking if you’ll resign over a botched event, it’s not going to go well.
If you’ve never rehearsed what could go wrong and thought about how an incident could play out on social media, you will always be on the back foot if something does happen.
Here are five thoughts about habits to practice now that will serve your own wellbeing when you are facing a crisis.
Get out of your comfort zone as much as you can
Become used to having to adapt, change or face a challenge as often as possible to build your mental agility and resilience. It could be as big as facing up to your fear of heights or as small as taking a different route to work.
Find a reason to say thank you to the people you work with every day
Research shows that feeling appreciated is more valuable to people than bonuses. And when the shit hits the fan, you want people right there alongside you, not all heading for the exits as quickly as possible.
Get into the habit of asking for help
We often mistake asking for help as a sign of weakness. But when a crisis hits, you’re going to need all the help and support you can get. If you’re still trying to do everything yourself because ‘it’s your responsibility’, then it will be you that will suffer.
Find ways to relax, switch off or meditate
Looking after our own mental wellbeing is no longer a fluffy subject for business unless you’re still in the Dark Ages. Find whatever way suits you best to lower your stress levels and stick to those good habits. You’ll be in a much better and clearer place to deal with a potential crisis.
Don’t be complacent
When everything is going well and business is booming, it’s tempting to believe that things could ever go wrong. Ironically, it’s when business is going well that you may be in the best frame of mind to think objectively and clearly about potential bad times.
Use the opportunity to prepare, plan and test what could go wrong both for the business and the team as individuals. Who’s your calmest, most effective communicator? Does everyone understand their own individual role if an incident were to happen? Are they up to it?
Your everyday habits and practices will be severely tested at a time of crisis. Make sure they’re the right ones for making yourself and your team resilient when your reputation is on the line.