FirstDibs by Amor Maclang • Published 02 September 2019


“The ability of Filipino organizations to practice resilience in the face of crisis is a hallmark of our progress and stability as a nation,” GeiserMaclang Chief Innovations Officer Brad Geiser once said.

As one of the pioneers for taking crisis management out of its shadowy backroom state and making it visible, public, and available as a discipline for Filipinos, Brad is heartened to see the topic catching on and the practice becoming more widespread in the country.

In one of his presentations, Brad discusses the dangerous trends in the practice of crisis communications. He enumerated the misinterpretations and malpractices that need to be corrected if the Philippines is to progress in its public perception management.

Strategic Preparation is not Psychological Preparation

“A crisis is a mentally stressful and cognitively distorting situation. Even the best laid plans of very smart people can become devastated without solid, practiced coping skills,” Brad stresses.

That is why the best practice in crisis management means running realistic crisis simulations. Otherwise, expect that some of your best laid plans will fall apart due to human error.

The truth is that an organization does not emotionally prepare employees for crisis. The employees need to be strategically prepared, because employees in fight or flight mode will be unable or unwilling to follow strategy.

According to Brad, the best way to solve this is to trigger training. Simulations combined with coping-skills exercises enable employees to respond to crisis scenarios objectively. And for crisis training to be effective, it should be conducted at least once a year, depending on the industry risk levels. In other words, the more an industry is prone to crisis, the more frequent the training should be.

Confusing Risk Management with Risk Aversion

“To succeed in business is to take risks. If your crisis management is making you super conservative, then you aren’t doing it right,” Brad reveals as he emphasizes that risk management is not risk aversion.

Risk aversion, or the practice of avoiding risks at any or all cost, is the enemy of innovation. In this age of digital transformation, companies that prevent themselves from innovating will most likely perish.

The purpose of risk and crisis management is to empower organizations to take intelligent, calculated risks, confident in the knowledge that they can handle the potential blow-back.

According to Brad, the solution is to creatively mitigate risk with KPIs. The key to edgy innovations is to hold risk mitigation to the standards of innovation that were applied to development and marketing.

Treating Crisis Management exclusively as Media Communication

Crisis Management is not simply about how you communicate but how you connect, partner, and engage both internal and external participants.

But why is media focus a problem? Simple. “There are many influential interest groups that will have concerns your media messages will not address,” Brad notes.

And according to him, the solution is stakeholder engagement. In the age of social media, adopting a network-conscious way of preparing will help your organization identify who you need to reach out to and how to go about it properly.

“Your understanding of a crisis scenario is only as complete as your understanding of the interested and affected stakeholders,” Brad stresses.

Treating Risk Management as separate from daily business practice

Crisis Management is not just about the day a crisis occurs but about the groundwork you set in motion well before that day ever comes.

A crisis can strike a company anytime. So even before a crisis strikes, companies should think about how a crisis could impact employees, customers, suppliers, stockholders, the general public, and, of course, their overall company value.

As such, crisis management should not only be planned for it should be fully integrated into a company’s daily operations. Because if a company treats risk management as a separate process, it creates a tendency to deprioritize risk mitigation investment.

“We always have to remember one thing: not everything can be solved the day it blows up,” Brad notes, stressing that some things cannot be fixed with PR. “As such, we should adopt risk mitigation as a way of doing business. Make it a part of annual business planning. Make it a part of every operation and marketing strategy session.”

Treating Crisis Management and Brand Management as separate things

Crisis Management and Brand Management are not separate things. This is one of the most damaging ideas out there, stemming from critical misunderstandings about both fields. Managing a brand means protecting it in good times and defending it in times of crisis.
But why is treating brand management and crisis management separately a problem?

“By the time an untrained brand manager or agency realizes something is a crisis, a lot of additional damage could’ve already happened,” Brad underscores. All brand managers and their agencies must therefore demonstrate crisis management proficiency. This can be achieved through thorough training and workshop sessions.

Assuming that apology is the solution to every situation

“Many executives think that when the public complains, the only thing that will end it is to apologize,” Brad says. “But this is never the case,” he adds.

There are so many other ways to react to a crisis, and if your company has taken the previous five points to heart, you will not even need to apologize at all.

“The Filipino professional must reset their ideas about risk issues and crisis management so we, as a country, can progress to the next level of stability and, ultimately, prosperity on this developmental journey we all take together,” Brad declares.