The custom of political leaders showing up in disaster zones is relatively modern. Formerly, disaster response proceeded with little input from federal agencies (generally) and heads of government (specifically). Instead, they were almost entirely state and local government as well as non-governmental agency interventions.
In this modern, heavily mediatized age, we’ve become painfully familiar with the most common, crisis communications gaffes: the public announcements that are quickly back tracked; the press conferences more notable for the (mis)behavior of officials than the content of the statements made; and the live interviews of angry families deriding a lack of candor and communication from officials.
Natural disasters are growing in kind, cost, and intensity. We see evidence of it all the time. Having recently lived in California, I experienced back-to-back cataclysmic wildfire seasons – last year’s North California season left air in the Bay Area so smoke-laden that it ranked among the dirtiest in the world. And now, my home state of New South Wales faces the same scenario, a longer, more intense bush firefighting season, already on track to be the worst in decades.
Eighty-four percent of organisations have a crisis management plan in place according to Deloitte’s global crisis survey, “Stronger, fitter, better.” Unfortunately, they don’t test those plans regularly.
Critical events have become increasingly disruptive facts of corporate life. A recent Forrester report documented that all companies experienced a critical event in the last two years. In fact, many dealt with multiple incidents, the average being more than four discrete critical events in a two-year period.
We’ve said it time and again, but comprehensive, crisis management planning, while essential, is only the first step towards crisis preparedness. No matter how brilliant, dynamic, or intuitive your crisis plan is, when the time comes to execute, staff still needs to be comfortable performing assigned tasks. And that entails, regular training in crisis-like conditions. How, then, to create those conditions?
Over the last few years, companies have taken major steps to get their crisis preparedness house(s) in order. For instance, the 2016 Institute of Crisis Management (ICM) Annual Crisis Report found that only half of all global organizations had crisis management plans in place. Fast forward to this year, when Deloitte released the findings of its global survey of 500 crisis management executives. That study, “Stronger, fitter, better: Crisis management for the resilient enterprise,” showed that no less than 84 percent of companies had crisis management plans in place. Not the same sample set, to be sure, but still a major jump in crisis management preparedness. But though companies seem to have cottoned on completely to the crisis threat, they’re not out of the woods quite yet. That’s because the reality of crisis is completely different than the ersatz version you’ll find in crisis plans and simulations.
When compliance aims drive your crisis planning, they do so to your detriment. I know, sounds a little counter-intuitive, especially when regulators mandate that businesses prepare emergency plans for the workplace.
It’s December, and the new year approaches. But before we usher in 2019, let’s take a look back on the year in corporate crisis.
The crisis threat is here – most likely to stay. According to the ODM Group, nearly 80% of business leaders think their companies are only a year away from crisis. They’ve good reason to: roughly four in five Crisis Management, Business Continuity, and Risk executives have had to mobilize their teams at least once in the past two years.