A Contingency Mindset throughout your readiness thinking and planning acknowledges that as comprehensively and carefully as you prepare for the communication, contact, interactions and engagement that will be expected of us throughout the course of a crisis, and your forecast responses applying all of your years of experience, there will still be those off-the-wall, large and surprising situations and circumstances that blindside. Coming from nowhere these events will be extremely time and attention-consuming, and very costly to manage, mitigate, control or overcome.
Extensive “blindside thinking” may already be embedded in your plans and strategies, including crucial, persistent vulnerability points that have already been signaled by those who always oppose, criticize, intentionally mis-characterize, and sensationalize.
Remember too, Lukaszewski’s First Axiom of Crisis Survival:
Neither the media, your toughest opponents, smartest critics, nor the government knows enough to defeat you. Defeat is almost always the work of uninformed or over confident, overly optimistic bosses, co-workers and associates talking because the boss is silent; well-meaning but uninformed friends, relatives covering for the organization, or from dysfunction in an organization.
And Lukaszewski’s First Law of a Successful Crisis First Response:
Stop The Production Of Victims.
There are also patterns of opposition strategy that often trigger contingent events and which those opposing you hope to create. These general strategies include:
Contingent level behaviors we’ve seen in large-scale crises include:
Contingency thinking is a form of pre-authorizing action rather than waiting to act once contingent circumstances appear to be occurring.
This kind of thinking helps achieve the one behavior that, if not undertaken, seriously tarnishes your reputation… the failure to respond now.
The single most toxic strategy in crisis management is waiting to react. There is never a good explanation for waiting to do things which would mitigate victim circumstances and reduce the production of additional victims. None.
Failure to act faster than promptly, is the most common criticism of Crisis Response.
Here are some of the toxic excuses we’ve all heard from management, leadership and perpetrators for failing to act. None of these excuses pass the straight face or laugh test, and they are beyond belief from the moment they are uttered or quoted:
The decision to speak is not up to the attorneys, not up to the PR people, not even up to other members of the senior management team or outsiders. The decision to talk is a pure leadership decision. Yes, the bosses sometimes hide behind the attorneys, but that’s the time to call these bosses out. Attorneys are prohibited by their canons of ethics from making and promoting specific recommendations to clients. They must offer options, and let the client decide. Never be intimidated by a strong-willed attorney. That is what they’re paid to do. The choice for silence is so toxic, so devastating, that it could well be a career defining moment for the leader of the organization. And, it often is.
Silence is the most reputationally toxic strategy any reputable individual organization can choose. You just can’t recover.
The gap that occurs between the onset of crisis events and the initial response is the Reputation, Honesty and Integrity Gap. In addition to reflecting the amount of serious damage to your reputation and trustworthiness, this gap, which will never be closed, can reflect the size of your fines, and in some cases, the length of jail sentences.
Be a contingency thinker; prepare for the blindsides. This kind of thinking and pre-authorizing action is the soul and heart of credible and effective crisis response.
James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, Fellow IABC; APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus
If you have questions, or would like to dive more deeply into the subject of this blog, you can reach me 24/7 at firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-948-7029 (voicemail, email, text). I look forward, as a friend and colleague, to helping you achieve the objectives you’ve set for yourself for having a happier, more influential, successful and meaningful career.
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