Managing growing threats in post-crisis Asia: 3 steps for companies
27 October 2009
Planning, transparency and a proactive approach. These are three key factors for managing issues and minimizing the risk of crisis for companies in Asia.
The need for crisis communications management is greater than ever during these complex times. Across Asia, the ongoing liberalization of economies, politics and media have unleashed increasingly critical voices. Everyone has power too with the rise of social media.
Now in the wake of the global financial crisis and recession, rising nationalism and protectionism will likely present challenges in the form of government and consumer actions against foreign companies and brands.
How can risks be minimised and threats contained? How to respond when confronted by difficult situations which could easily escalate into crisis?
A holistic approach is needed. It requires planning, discipline and flexibility. Risk management, being in control and appropriate responses result in less damage to reputation, brands and the business. An open and responsible approach provides a solid foundation for rebuilding.
A three-step process provides the keys to stronger issues management, laying the foundations and structures for actions which can avert crisis.
- Identify the assets of the business in terms of its reputation and brands so that a clearer picture is developed of what needs to be protected
- Identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Is there anything we could be doing which makes us susceptible?
- Build a picture of stakeholders’ expectations of the company, operations and brands, mapping our performance against them
- Consider the threats externally – why and how could the company be attacked?
- Constantly monitor the issues and threats based on their likelihood of occurring as well as their potential impact on reputation and brands
- Develop a plan for managing issues, current and those which are foreseen. The plan needs to include actions and statements for stakeholders. Assign responsibilities and stakeholders to various executives
- Based on the risk assessment developed during the awareness stage, rectify or actively address those areas where a collision of interests with stakeholders could arise
- Engage with stakeholders on positive issues or ‘good news’ so that lines of communication are open and goodwill built in the case of difficulties arising
- A crisis communications plan focuses primarily on a number of possible scenarios, including natural disasters and reputational damage.
- Be the first to break your own bad news.This approach provides you with better control over communications. Being on the front foot also demonstrates you are responsible and will resolve the situation.
- Seize the ‘golden hour’. There’s a period of about one day when a serious issue or crisis breaks out and becomes known to the public during which stakeholders are watching closely. Take advantage of the ‘golden hour’ to set the tone and expectations.
- Respond quickly. Issues can quickly escalate if a company remains silent. If you don’t speak, your critics and competitors will.
- Reach out to stakeholders. Talk to all the major parties involved so they know you care about their views and are in charge.
- Consider the impacts of your statements and actions on other markets. News now travels across borders quickly and given the various regulatory and social differences across Asia can cause problems in other locations.
- Don’t engage in a cover up. Attempts to hide a situation worsen a crisis when they are uncovered. Remember Arthur Andersen and Enron?
- Don’t answer with ‘no comment’. Some 65% of people believe a company replying with a ‘no comment’ when alleged to have done wrong is probably engaging in a cover up, according to a Hill & Knowlton survey in the US.
- Don’t tell stakeholders different things. Consistent messages to all stakeholders are vital for credibility. If they are provided with differing accounts, confusion and suspicion will arise.