Why it Was Time to Publish ‘The New Rules of Crisis Management’

Crisis book cover

By Mike Hatcliffe

United Airlines. PWC. Wells Fargo. Pepsi. Delta. Equifax. Chipotle. Dove Soap.

Presidential tweets. Viral videos. Cyber thefts. Sexual misconduct. Brand mis-judgments. Corporate malfeasance. Extreme weather.

From a crisis management point of view, 2017 had it all!

But what lessons do we to take from it all?

It became clear during the year that technology is often driving the severity and speed of the threat.

Everyone’s now on social media. We’ve all got smartphones with sophisticated video cameras.

We’ve read the tweets, replayed the video several times and heard victims’ stories long before we read about the same issue on a news site or see it on a TV broadcast.

It has become equally obvious that organizations’ crisis defenses have not caught up with that simple truth.

It took United two days to get to any kind of meaningful response to the Dr Dao incident. It took weeks for Equifax to acknowledge its huge data loss and then it appeared to have no communications plan to handle such an event. Pepsi rushed into a sensitive social issue with apparently no forethought or understanding of how using black lives matter to sell fizzy drinks might look to others.

Something has clearly changed in the rules of crisis management. But what?

We talked to many crisis management practitioners during the year. They made the point time and time again that the old guidebooks and teachings for crisis management are becoming increasingly irrelevant given the nature and speed of how issues emerge and escalate in the age of social media.

It is not that all the tried and trusted tenets of crisis management have fallen by the wayside. Indeed, many of the core ideas of how to neutralize an issue, mitigate a crisis and protect a reputation remain intact.

But the context of how that takes place has changed.

The threats emerge from different places. An issue catches alight and becomes a threat a lot quicker. A crisis escalates at lightning speed. An array of people and stakeholders can, and do, participate in sharing and adding to information online.

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