Leadership in a Time of Crisis: Reputation Management in the 21st Century
It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it. --Benjamin Franklin
Welcome to the age of crisis. It seems like each 24-hour news cycle brings with it another headline about a corporate misstep: a misstep that is easily amplified through the power and speed of social media. Unfortunately for most corporations, these events initially present themselves in the context of unexpected events, which evolve into a corporate crisis. Whether it is a spontaneous action by an employee, an act of carelessness by a supplier, or intense pressure from an activist, the chances a leadership team will face some sort of public relations crisis is uncomfortably (if not predictably) high.
The key is to understand while a crisis of any sort can be a threat to a firm's reputation, that very same crisis is equally an opportunity to re-establish a company's position as a caring and positive member of society. Seizing these opportunities requires a commitment from corporate leadership to implement a thoroughly tested and all-inclusive framework for effective crisis response - not one that simply defaults to the all to common, in-house counsel mandated, series of "no comment"s. Managers in high-stress situations not only need to understand the motivations and strategic capabilities of stakeholders, but also must appreciate the importance of value-based management in preventing and managing corporate crises.
This 1-day workshop will focus on crisis management from the point of view of a corporation's management team. This intensive course is based on experience-learning and will consist of four (4) modules covering various case studies and crisis simulation exercises that explore the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that will help participants improve their strategic thinking and communication skills in high-stress situations.
This one-day program will be led by a world-renowned reputational crisis expert, and based on the work of Daniel Diermeier and his popular book Reputation Rules: Strategies for Building Your Company's Most Valuable Asset, New York: McGraw-Hill (2011) as well as a series of course materials intended to facilitate engaging dialogue and challenging exercises for the participants.
During this workshop participants will:
  • Challenge basic beliefs about the nature of crisis
  • Learn to scan one's business practices for reputational, political, and regulatory risks
  • Anticipate and prepare for potential crises
  • Explore techniques for successfully solving problems in high-pressure, crisis situations characterized by complex decision environments, time-pressure, high stakes, unanticipated events, and information overload (and at times, information scarcity)
  • Develop strategies for managing stakeholders, public opinion, media relations, and public officials
  • Design reputation management strategies and processes
  • Integrate your crisis management approach into your overall business strategy. This means forming crisis teams before they are needed
There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full. --Henry A. Kissinger
Effective crisis management strategies require a framework that allows managers to continually evaluate their firm's potential for crisis. A key component of successfully predicting whether a business decision may have adverse consequences is to understand the motivations of all stakeholders and their influence. In this first module, participants will see that a firm's reputation is not the only one that requires attention. The actions of suppliers, employees, affiliates (and even competitors) around the globe can negatively affect a firm's, or entire industry's, standing.
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. --Abraham Lincoln
There is no crisis without the news or social media. The focus of this session is the impact of the news media on business strategies and public perception. Participants will learn that a key element to effective crisis management is to quickly identify the key business assets affected by the crisis and to design strategies to quickly seize these opportunities to change, and even improve, one's position in the market.
This module will conclude with a breakout session that will ask participants to draft a talking points memo in response to a perceived crisis in which the media and activist groups have identified your firm as the leading contributor. This memo will instruct a member of your team to deliver a press conference's opening statement. What points should you proactively address?
What next steps should you promise? Are there any words that must never be uttered? Who is delivering this statement? The CEO? General Counsel? Director of Media Relations? How long do you wait until you deliver this statement? Is the spokesperson taking questions?
Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving. --William Shakespeare
Political activists and other stakeholders are frequently the cause of unexpected corporate crises. This is especially true for multi-national companies in consumer goods markets. To improve their ability to manage crises effectively, companies need to be able to anticipate emerging issues and assess their potential business impact. Fear and moral outrage are two of the main drivers for reputational crises. This requires an assessment of business practices and market strategies from the point of view of different value and belief systems.
This module will conclude with an exercise in identifying the hidden issues that have the potential to stoke either fear or moral outrage (executive compensation, supplier business practices, environmental concerns, etc.), and what steps can be taken to prepare a comprehensive response plan or, ideally, prevent the crisis altogether.
Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempest. --Epicurus
Reputational crisis often lead to regulatory and political ones. Regulations vary from region to region and it is important for any management team to understand that while their definition and application are not always fixed or consistently enforced, they exist. Navigating the regulatory and political environment is never easy and requires a keen understanding of the capabilities and motivations of the various constituencies in the regions in which the firm (and its subsidiaries, affiliates, and competitors) operate.
This module will conclude with another crisis simulation, quite similar to that of the 2nd module, but with a new set of circumstances, particularly those found in a global context.
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