How Organizations and Individuals Can Manage Crisis

The alumni of the prestigious Harvard Business School noted that the COVID-19 pandemic forced governments worldwide to make a choice between life, death and economy. He spoke at the NIM’s Management Day lecture in Lagos.

Quoting the World Economic Forum, 2020, Adeshina said an aggregate loss of the health and economic crises is estimated at $9 trillion between 2020 and 2021. He warned that the world needs to de-escalate crisis to avert a humanitarian disaster.

He said: “Crisis is an unstable event or series of events that can emanate from an individual, group, corporate and the government, which can cause disruption in normal business operations, economic, social, reputation and political damage in the society. It threatens to have calamitous human and developmental consequences.”

Nigeria, he said, was facing its worst economic crisis, with over 82.9 million persons classified as poor by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its Nigerian Living Standards Survey (NLSS) Report, May 2020.

This, the Institute of Bankers’ Fellow noted, amounts to 40.1 per cent of the population. “Nigeria, since its last economic recession in 2016-2017, has witnessed a collapse in the price of crude oil, volatile movement in the exchange rate, rising inflation and food prices, dwindling Foreign Direct Investment,  increasing unemployment, reduced public confidence in the government, Northern region unrest coupled with the Global pandemic; amongst others,” he said.

Adeshina, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), stated that businesses must be prepared for a crisis, because “it is a matter of when and not if.  “A crisis should not be perceived as a threat to avoid, rather the focus should be when it comes, how prepared is the organisation to handle it? If a crisis is well managed, it reduces the damage and impact on an organisation and enables the organisation to recover quickly.”

He was of the view that a credible crisis management framework was critical to help maintain confidence in the people, system and government and it minimises risks. “Proper and quick crisis management is critical for public relations and reputation. Since crises come in several forms, it is recommended that organisations should have in place a crisis management plan,” he said.

He lamented the increasing ‘unmodellable’ behaviours, especially at top-most leadership levels. Adeshina, an investment banker for over three decades, blamed the dwindling economy on the inability of governments to curb the high rate of people living below the poverty line.

Citing the recent #EndSARS protest, he said it was a pointer to the end of bad governance and a wake-up call to those in leadership positions to begin to institutionalize good governance. “Attention should be given to the business continuity, cost management, productivity, and implementing safety measures, however, innovation-led growth should not be totally ignored,” he said.

By Brown Chimezie

Source: How organisations, individuals can manage crisis, by expert

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Related Sources:

Argenti, P. (2002, December).  Crisis communication:  Lessons from 9/11.  Harvard Business Review, 80(12), 103-109. This article provides insights into working with employees during a crisis.  The information is derived from interviews with managers about their responses to the 9/11 tragedies.

Arpan, L.M., & Roskos-Ewoldsen, D.R. (2005). Stealing thunder: An analysis of the effects of proactive disclosure of crisis information. Public Relations Review 31(3), 425-433.
This article discusses an experiment that studies the idea of stealing thunder.  Stealing thunder is when an organization releases information about a crisis before the news media or others release the information.  The results found that stealing thunder results in higher credibility ratings for a company than allowing others to report the crisis information first.  This is additional evidence to support the notion of being quick in a crisis and telling the organization’s side of the story.

Augustine, N. R. (1995, November/December). Managing the crisis you tried to prevent. Harvard Business Review, 73(6), 147-158. This article centers on the six stages of a crisis:  avoiding the crisis, preparing to management the crisis, recognizing the crisis, containing the crisis, resolving the crisis, and profiting from the crisis.  The article reinforces the need to have a crisis management plan and to test both the crisis management plan and team through exercises.  It also reinforces the need to learn (profit) from the crisis.

Barton, L. (2001). Crisis in organizations II (2nd ed.). Cincinnati, OH: College Divisions South-Western. This is a very practice-oriented book that provides a number of useful insights into crisis management.  There is a strong emphasis on the role of communication and public relations/affairs in the crisis management process and the need to speak with one voice.  The book provides excellent information on crisis management plans (a template is in Appendix D pp. 225-262); the composition of crisis management teams (pp. 14-17); the need for exercises (pp.  207-221); and the need to communicate with employees (pp. 86-101).

Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration. Albany: State University of New York Press. This book has a scholarly focus on image restoration not crisis manage.  However, his discussion of image restoration strategies is very thorough (pp. 63-96).  These strategies have been used as reputation repair strategies after a crisis.

Benoit, W. L. (1997). Image repair discourse and crisis communication. Public Relations Review, 23(2), 177-180. The article is based on his book Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration and provides a review of image restoration strategies.  The image restoration strategies are reputation repair strategies that can be used after a crisis.  It is a quicker and easiest to use resource than the book.

Business”>http://www.nfib.com/object/3783593.html.”>Business Roundtable’s Post-9/11 crisis communication toolkit. (2002). Retrieved April 24, 2006, from http://www.nfib.com/object/3783593.html.
This is a very user-friendly PDF files that takes a person through the crisis management process.  There is helpful information on web-based communication (pp. 73-82) including “dark sites” and the use of Intranet and e-mail to keep employees informed.  There is an explanation of templates, what are called holding statements or fill-in-the-blank media statements including a sample statement (pp. 28-29).  It also provides information of the crisis management plan (pp. 21-32), structure of the crisis management team (pp. 33-40) and types of exercises (pp. 89-93) including mock press conferences.

Carney, A., & Jorden, A. (1993, August). Prepare for business-related crises. Public Relations Journal 49, 34-35.
This article emphasize the need for a message strategy during crisis communication.  Developing and sharing a strategy helps an organization to speak with one voice during the crisis.

Cohen, J. R.  (1999).  Advising clients to apologize.  S. California Law Review, 72, 1009-131.
This article examines expressions of concern and full apologies from a legal perspective.  He notes that California, Massachusetts, and Florida have laws that prevent expressions of concern from being used as evidence against someone in a court case.  The evidence from court cases suggests that expressions of concern are helpful because they help to reduce the amount of damages sought and the number of claims filed.

Coombs, W. T. (1995). Choosing the right words: The development of guidelines for the selection of the “appropriate” crisis response strategies. Management Communication Quarterly, 8, 447-476.
This article is the foundation for Situational Crisis Communication Theory.  It uses a decision tree to guide the selection of crisis response strategies.  The guidelines are based on matching the response to nature of the crisis situation.  A number of studies have tested the guidelines in the decision tree and found them to be reliable.

Coombs, W. T. (2004a). Impact of past crises on current crisis communications: Insights from situational crisis communication theory. Journal of Business Communication, 41, 265-289.
This article documents that past crises intensify the reputational threat to a current crisis.  Since the news media reminds people of past crises, it is common for organizations in crisis to face past crises as well.  Crisis managers need to adjust their reputation repair strategies if there are past crises-crisis managers will need to use more accommodative strategies than they normally would.  Accidents are a good example.  Past accidents indicate a pattern of problems so people will view the organization as much more responsible for the crisis than if the accident were isolated.  Greater responsibility means the crisis is more of a threat to the reputation and the organization must focus the response more on addressing victim concerns.

Coombs, W. T. (2004b).  Structuring crisis discourse knowledge: The West Pharmaceutics case.  Public Relations Review, 30, 467-474.
This article is a case analysis of the West Pharmaceutical 2003 explosion at its Kinston, NC facility.  The case documents the extensive use of the Internet to keep employees and other stakeholders informed.  It also develops a list of crisis communication standards based on SCCT.  The crisis communication standards offer suggestions for how crisis managers can match their crisis response to the nature of the crisis situation.

Coombs, W. T. (2006). Code red in the boardroom: Crisis management as organizational DNA. Westport, CN: Praeger.
This is a book written for a practitioner audience.  The book focuses on how to respond to three common types of crises:  attacks on an organization (pp. 13-26), accidents (pp. 27-44), and management misbehavior pp. (45-64).  There are also detailed discussions of how crisis management plans must be a living document (pp. 77-90), different types of exercises for crisis management (pp. 84-87), and samples of specific elements of a crisis management plan in Appendix A (pp. 103-109).

Coombs, W. T. (2007a).  Ongoing crisis communication:  Planning, Managing, and responding (2nd ed.).  Los Angeles:  Sage. This book is designed to teach students and managers about the crisis management process.  There is a detailed discussion of spokesperson training pp. (78-87) and a discussion of the traits and skills crisis team members need to posses to be effective during a crisis (pp. 66-77).  The book emphasizes the value of follow-up information and updates (pp. 147-148) along with the learning from the crisis (pp. 152-162).  There is also a discussion of the utility of mass notification systems during a crisis (pp. 97-98).

Coombs, W. T. (2007b).  Protecting organization reputations during a crisis:The development and application of situational crisis communication theory.  Corporate Reputation Review, 10, 1-14.
This article provides a summary of research conducted on and lessons learned from Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT).  The article includes a discussion how the research can go beyond reputation to include behavioral intentions such as purchase intention and negative word-of-mouth.  The information in the article is based on experimental studies rather than case studies.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (1996). Communication and attributions in a crisis: An experimental study of crisis communication. Journal of Public Relations Research, 8(4), 279-295. This article uses an experimental design to document the negative effect of crises on an organization’s reputation.  The research also establishes that the type of reputation repair strategies managers use does make a difference on perceptions of the organization.  An important finding is proof that the more an organization is held responsible for the crisis, the more accommodative a reputation repair strategy must be in order to be effective/protect the organization’s reputation.

Coombs, W. T. and Holladay, S. J.  (2001).  An extended examination of the crisis
situation: A fusion of the relational management and symbolic approaches.  Journal of Public Relations Research, 13, 321-340.

This study reports on an experiment designed to test how prior reputation influenced the attributions of crisis responsibility.  The study found that an unfavorable prior reputation had the biggest effect.  People rated an organization as having much greater responsibility for a crisis when the prior reputation was negative than if the prior reputation was neutral or positive.  Similar results were found for the effects of prior reputation on the post-crisis reputation.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2002). Helping crisis managers protect reputational assets: Initial tests of the situational crisis communication theory. Management Communication Quarterly, 16, 165-186. This article begins to map how stakeholders respond to some very common crises.  Using the level of responsibility for a crisis that people attribute to an organization, the research found that common crises can be categorized into one of three groups:  victim cluster has minimal attributions of crisis responsibility (natural disasters, rumors, workplace violence, and tampering), accidental cluster has low attributions of crisis responsibility (technical-error product harm and accidents), and preventable cluster has strong attributions of crisis responsibility (human-error product harm and accidents, management misconduct, and organizational misdeeds).  The article recommends different crisis response strategies depending upon the attributions of crisis responsibility.

Coombs, W. T. & Holladay, S. J. (2006).  Halo or reputational capital:  Reputation and crisis management.  Journal of Communication Management, 10(2), 123-137.
This article examines if and when a favorable pre-crisis reputation can protect an organization with a halo effect.  The halo effect says that strong positive feelings will allow people to overlook a negative event-it can shield an organization from reputational damage during a crisis.  The study found that only in a very specific situation does a halo effect occur.  In most crises, the reputation is damaged suggesting reputational capital is a better way to view a strong, positive pre-crisis reputation.  An organization accumulates reputational capital by positively engaging publics.  A crisis causes an organization to loss some reputational capital.  The more pre-crisis reputational capital, the stronger the reputation will be after the crisis and the easier it should be to repair.

Corporate Leadership Council. (2003). Crisis management strategies. Retrieved September 12, 2006, from http://www.executiveboard.com/EXBD/Images/PDF/Crisis%20Management%20Strategies.pdf. [Now available here]
This online PDF file summarizes key crisis management insights from the Corporate Leadership Council.  The topics include the value and elements of a crisis management plan (pp 1-3), structure of a crisis management team (pp. 4-6), communicating with employees (pp. 7-9), using web sites including “dark sites” (p. 7), using pre-packaged information/templates (p. 7), and the value of employee assistance programs (p. 10).  The file is an excellent overview to key elements of crisis management with an emphasis on using new technology.

Dean, D. H.  (2004.  Consumer reaction to negative publicity: Effects of corporate reputation, response, and responsibility for a crisis event.  Journal of Business Communication, 41, 192-211.
This article reports an experimental study that included a comparison how people reacted to expressions of concern verses no expression of concern.  Post-crisis reputations were stronger when an organization provided an expression of concern.

Dilenschneider, R. L. (2000). The corporate communications bible: Everything you need to know to become a public relations expert. Beverly Hills: New Millennium. This book has a strong chapter of crisis communication (pp. 120-142).  It emphasizes how a crisis is a threat to an organization’s reputation and the need to be strategic with the communications response.

Downing, J. R. (2003).  American Airlines’ use of mediated employee channels after the 9/11 attacks.  Public Relations Review, 30, 37-48.
This article reviews how American Airlines used its Intranet, web sites, and reservation system to keep employees informed after 9/11.  The article also comments on the use of employee assistance programs after a traumatic event.  Recommendations include using all available channels to inform employees during and after a crisis as well as recommending organizations “gray out” color from their web sites to reflect the somber nature of the situation.

Fearn-Banks, K. (2001). Crisis communications: A casebook approach (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. This book is more a textbook for students using case studies.  Chapter 2 (pp. 18-33) has a useful discussion of elements of the crisis communication plan, a subset of the crisis management plan.  Chapter 4 has some tips on media relations (pp. 63-71).

Hearit, K. M. (1994, Summer). Apologies and public relations crises at Chrysler, Toshiba, and Volvo. Public Relations Review, 20(2), 113-125.
This article provides a strong rationale for the value of quick but accurate crisis response.  The focus is on how a quick response helps an organization to control the crisis situation.

Hearit, K. M. (2006).  Crisis management by apology:  Corporate response to
allegations of wrongdoing.  Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This book is a detailed, scholarly treatment of apologies that has direct application to crisis management.  Chapter 1 helps to explain the different ways the term
apology is used and concentrates on how it should be treated as a public acceptance of responsibility (pp. 1-18).  Chapter 3 details the legal and liability issues involved when an organization chooses to use an apology.

Kellerman, B. (2006, April). When should a leader apologize and when not? Harvard Business Review, 84(4), 73-81. This article defines an apology as accepting responsibility for a crisis and expressing regret.  The value of apologies is highlighted along with suggestions for when an apology is appropriate and inappropriate.  An apology should be used when it will serve an important purpose, the crisis has serious consequences, and the cost of an apology will be lower than the cost of being silent.

Klein, J. & Dawar, N. (2004).  Corporate social responsibility and consumers’ attributions of brand evaluations in product-harm crisis.  International Journal of Marketing, 21, 203-217.
This article reports on an experimental study that compared how prior information about corporate social responsibility (a dimension of prior reputation) affected attributions of crisis responsibility.  People attribute much greater responsibility to the negative corporate social responsibility condition than to the neutral or positive conditions.  There was no difference between the attributions in the positive and neutral conditions.

Lackluster online PR no aid in crisis response. (2002). PR News. Retrieved April 20, 2006, from http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe
This short article notes how journalists and other interested parties are using web sites during crises to collect information.  The article highlights the value of having a “dark site” ready before a crisis.  A sample of various criteria for a crisis web are discussed by reviewing Tyco’s web site as a case study.

Lerbinger, O. (1997). The crisis manager: Facing risk and responsibility. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
This book centers on seven types of crises:  natural, technological, confrontation, malevolence, skewed management values, deception, and management misconduct.  There is a strong focus on the role of media relations in crisis management (pp. 27-29 and pp. 31-34).

Mitroff, I. I., Harrington, K., & Gai, E. (1996, September). Thinking about the unthinkable. Across the Board, 33(8), 44-48.
This article reinforces the value of creating and training crisis management teams by having them conduct various types of exercises.

Sonnenfeld, S. (1994, July/August).  Media policy–What media policy?  Harvard Business Review, 72(4), 18-19.
This is a short article that discusses the need for spokesperson training prior to a crisis.

Sturges, D. L. (1994).  Communicating through crisis: A strategy for organizational survival, Management Communication Quarterly, 7, 297-316.
This article emphasizes how communication needs shift during a crisis.  The first need is for instructing information, the information that tells people how to protect themselves physically from a crisis.  The next need is adjusting information, the information that helps people to cope psychologically with the crisis.  The initial crisis response demands a focus on instructing and adjusting information.  The third and final type of communication is reputation repair.  Reputation repair is only used once the instructing and adjusting information have been provided.

Taylor, M., & Kent, M. L. (2007).  Taxonomy of mediated crisis responses.  Public Relations Review, 33, 140-146.
This article summarizes the best practices for using the Internet during a crisis and advocates more organizations should be using the Internet, especially web sites, during a crisis. The six best practices are:  (1) include all your tradition media relations materials on your web site; (2) try to make use of the interactive nature of the Internet for your crisis web content; (3) provide detailed and clear information on web sites during for a product recall; (4) tell your side of the story on the crisis web site including quotations from managers; (5) when necessary, create different web pages for different stakeholders tailored to their interests in the crisis; and (6) work with government agencies including hyperlinks to relevant government agency web sites.

Tyler, L. (1997). Liability means never being able to say you’re sorry: Corporate guilt, legal constraints, and defensiveness in corporate communication. Management Communication Quarterly, 11(1), 51-73.
This article discusses the legal constraints that prevent apologies during a crisis.  It is a hard look at the choices crisis managers must make between addressing victims in a particular way and financial constraints.  The article is a reminder that crisis management occurs within the larger context of organizational operations and is subject to financial constraints.

Ulmer, R. R., Sellnow, T. L., & Seeger, M. W. (2006). Effective crisis communication: Moving from crisis to opportunity. Thousand Oaks: Sage.This book is mix of lessons and case studies.  Many of the cases focus on large scale crises or what some would call disasters.  Large scale crises/disasters are unique because they require multiple agency coordination and are often managed by government agencies.  Chapter 12 (pp. 177-187) on renewal as a reputation repair strategy after a crisis in unique and informative.  Renewal focuses on optimism and an emphasis on moving to some new and better state after the crisis.  Not all organizations can engage in renewal after a crisis.  Renewal requires that an organization have performed ethically before the crisis and have had strong stakeholder relationships before the crisis.

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