Most crisis management experts extol the virtues of readiness. But how ready is ready? Is planning for every scenario realistic, or is there a diminishing return? What is the right mix of plan creation, training, drills, and senior-level endorsement? Where does issues management fit in the mix?

M Booth believes there are escalating tiers of readiness. The highest state of readiness—which we call brand resilience—can only be achieved if all tiers are properly addressed. Here is an illustration:

 

Plans and tools in place.

The pyramid’s foundation is where the strong majority of brands (about 90%) live, owning a codified set of tools to help ensure there is speed and consistency to any crisis response. One watch-out: these plans can get stale, so they do require at least an annual revision.

Trained and tested capability.

A capability relies on a team of people, not a plan. Yet, we see only about 60% of brands reach the second level of resilience. Muscle-building training is required to ensure that communicators know how to apply the right tools and make solid judgments to manage a crisis. Simulation-style tests help round out the readiness by exposing gaps in the capability.

Aligned and endorsed mindset.

About two of every five brands we represent reach the next tier, where senior leadership endorses the proper mindset for reputation management and cross-functional teams are aligned with its importance. Without this step, the crisis plans and tools risk getting tossed out the window once a crisis is big enough to cause C-suite level tension. (We’ve seen it happen firsthand.) Strategy workshops and executive-leadership trainings can close these gaps.

Ongoing issues management.

Long-term issues create reputation damage and sometimes escalate to crisis flashpoints. Therefore, the active discipline of issues management needs to be a key ingredient in the mix for effective brand resilience. Yet, we witness only about 20% of brands engage in active issues management. This is a missed opportunity.

Anticipatory team.

Less than five percent of brands we see reach the peak of this pyramid, which requires a brand to be on its front foot to manage tomorrow’s flashpoints. Increasingly this includes threats arising from culture and societal conversations that prompt brands to take action or make change on topics like #MeToo, cancel-culture, gender wage-gaps, and more. This tier requires facilitated forecasting and ongoing oversight and engagement from a dedicated cross-functional team. It isn’t an easy commitment, but it is the secret-sauce to overall brand resilience.


Resilience is a journey, not a destination. M Booth has programming for brands to reach each these five main levels and remain as resilient as possible. Email JamesD@mbooth.com for more information.

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