Creating Crisis

23 Oct

While taking a walk today I had the opportunity to take a few minutes to appreciate some of the natural beauty around me.  I find that I can often learn a great deal by simply being outdoors and watching the world. 

When passing by a small pond, I was struck by the calmness of the water on a cool, windy Minnesota day.  There was no visible reaction in the pond to the world around it.  No movement or wasted energy.  When a leaf disturbed the water, it was only a temporary ripple that disappeared as the water adjusted to its presence.

I began to think a bit about much of my day which involved projects that were dragging, addressing concerns of staff, and a number of phone calls that “had” to get done.  Our days are filled with challenges and demands on our time.  I wonder though, how often we create our own crisis. 

At times in public relations, there are very real crisis issues that we face on behalf of our own organization or on behalf of our clients.   However, I also believe our industry does itself harm when we react to other business issues in a crisis mode without critically assessing the proper level of response. I’ve seen it time and time again where a well-intentioned professional reacts and triggers a domino effect in their desire to resolve a legitimate challenge and turns it into a perceived “crisis”.  Teams are scrambled and top leadership is pulled away from other projects to address this new need.  Attorneys and management are put on edge.  Clear communication suffers.

Communications professionals have often faced an uphill battle in justifying our role at the highest levels of leadership in the corporate world.  How can you be sure that you’re responding at the right level of intensity when facing an issue?

  • Listen closely to the problem- There aren’t prizes for the first wrong answer.  Take a couple minutes to understand the situation fully based on all the information you have available.
  • Identify what solutions, if any, you already have in place- This is the time to show how well you know your organization and how you understand the business environment.
  • Provide a critical analysis of potential gaps- This is pretty obvious after going through the assessment above but providing a simple, clear list of top priority issues goes a long way.
  • Remain calm- Act as if you’re comfortable in this situation (even if you aren’t frankly) and demonstrate that you are in control.  If communications is shoved out of the process because of a perceived lack of leadership, you won’t get it back later in this process.
  • Provide your recommendations and assemble the right players- It’s at this point when you’re ready to really respond to the challenge in a way that puts your organization/client in the best situation and positions you to be part of a successful resolution.

You want to be as calm and steady as that pond on an otherwise busy day.  React to the changing environment but get back to the state of being you desire.  When you can control your environment, others will trust you in theirs.

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