When Crisis Strategy Becomes Your Daily Guide
- By Oleg Kalinskiy, Director, Corporate Affairs Alcoa Russia, Chairman of the Board of Directors Alcoa Metallurg Rus
- Mar. 17 2009 00:00
It should be needless to say that most of the large multi-nationals have anti-crisis communications strategies that have been carefully reviewed by several layers of management and officially approved by the executive boards. This pre-approval process allows for quick actions to be implemented right away after crisis occurs. It comes very handy when your company operates in 35 countries, has over 350 locations and almost a hundred thousand of employees. If something takes place in your country of operation and you have an approved strategy to deal with it, it saves you a lot of time sending numerous e-mails asking for approval to various offices around the globe.
No one likes crisis mitigation strategies because everyone hates crises. That is why the relevant documents are usually buried away in some distant office locker or stored in a folder in your computer that you cannot easily locate without doing a broad search.
After all, before the global economic crisis hit Russia (and for that matter, I believe, every other country), not many of us faced constant stressful events at their work on a daily basis. We carried out normal every day communications: sent press releases, made phone calls, went to government hearings and round tables, implemented corporate social responsibility and humanitarian community projects and led quite an ordinary life. Today we all operate in the continuous anti-crisis mode and the early response systems has become the order of the day. The anti-crisis communications strategy documents are now main reference guides employed daily to clearly relay information to stakeholders, obtain feedback, preserve the reputation of the company and help achieve necessary financial results in the short run. Every day the global economic crisis brings surprises, usually not very pleasant ones. Layoffs take place across the country, factories shut down, the economy keeps contracting while global demand for metals and other raw materials declines, and opinion polls about the fast economic recovery are not optimistic.
This news, in turn, immediately amends your communications strategy. Crisis makes communications professionals think fast and act even faster. New key audiences for constant communications appear. Often they are the ones you have not considered maintaining everyday contact with in good economic times. Governmental employment centers, trade unions, deputies of local and regional assemblies, key community leaders whose opinion are trusted by both blue collar workers and administrative staff become your focus of attention, in addition to the traditional interlocutors from the government, mass media, investment community and nongovernmental organizations.
Today you take your anti-crisis communications strategy, revise it continuously, improvise all the time to counter what the day brings, call it your everyday communications plan and implement, implement, implement. Because the execution of the measures becomes key and time is always scarce, one important characteristic of the anti-crisis communications strategies is often overlooked. Yet this characteristic is not only critical to long-term improvement of relations with the whole audience ranging from employees to external interested parties but also fundamental to a long-term enhancement of the reputation and financial results of your enterprise. This characteristic is described by the fact that at present you employ the anti-crisis communications strategy not to combat just one specific negative event with a finite duration, but to manage an enduring crisis that you have no idea how long will last. By managing a lasting crisis and repeatedly employing a well-formulated anti-crisis early response system, you become a better communications professional. Your reaction is faster, your response time is shorter, you act immediately after bad news breaks, you are almost always prepared and know what step to take next. You are more focused and attentive in crisis than in normal times. This is natural. If the crisis is long-term, like this one appears to be, you acquire and constantly polish the skills that will strengthen your and your company's competitive advantages in the foreseeable future.
For communications professionals, the crisis has not only brought challenges and problems. It has brought a unique opportunity to work in the environment that is becoming tougher and more demanding every day and that tests your abilities to the limit in an environment that is best illustrated by the term coined by Herbert Spencer in the 19th century: "survival of the fittest." For communications professionals and for their companies, it may not seem like good news in comparison to the much more comfortable times that were just a year ago, but it is a reality. And we all have to operate in this reality and bring value to our enterprises. By skillfully adopting and utilizing the anti-crisis communications strategies in these hectic times, I believe the communication professionals can ensure that their value to their respective companies will be maximized over the long-term.