Recently, a former colleague asked me to help him better define what constitutes a corporate crisis for his new employer. He shared the following video as a thought-starter:

The rib-tickling episode immediately sparked the following “alternative” definition of a crisis, which I promptly communicated back. How about a crisis being any occurrence of “waste matter discharged from the bowels making a physical contact with a hydro-electric powered oscillating air current distribution device?..”

Joking aside, it’s important to clearly define what is a real crisis for your organisation, as it warrants waking up your CEO up at 3am on a Sunday morning (one of which falls on Christmas day this year). Rule of thumb: any situation resulting in loss of human life, loss of facilities or infrastructure, major interruption to normal business activities or revealing fundamental problems within the organisation warrants immediate C-suite attention.

Most likely types of risks in 2017:

The good news is that true unpredictable “black swans” - the risks that can’t be really predicted or prepared for - are quite rare.  Most types of risks can be anticipated and prepared for, including the following risks we are most likely to see more of next year:

  • Rising political intolerance: The US Presidential elections, the Brexit process, and a number of upcoming EU elections are all highly emotionally charged events, breading division. Currently we are seeing increased pressure on large companies to clarify whether they support certain media titles with their advertising money. This is unlikely to go away, and at the very least companies should review their programmatic advertising as a matter of priority to ensure they have full control over where there ads are appearing.
  • Rising risk of cyber-attacks: Cyber security threats today are coming from all around the globe and attacks are becoming more sophisticated. According to the EU Commission, at least 80% of European companies experienced at least one cyber-security incident in 2015. Oxford’s Saïd Business School predicts that the risk of internal cyber-attacks is set to rise – while other experts are warning of the increased risk of cyber-attacks coming from other countries. To make companies pay more attention to cyber risks, the EU is implementing the Network and Information Security Directive, comes into effect on 9 May 2018 and requires companies to report cyber breaches or face fines.

All of the above risks are also becoming increasingly global in nature, multi-lingual and multi-jurisdictional, which adds the complexity (and the head-ache).

What do I do?

Keep calm and get ready. Prevention – rather than cure – is a much better strategy. It pays to brainstorm worsts case scenarios and double-check your crisis communication collateral fits the bill. Unbelievable but true: a well-developed crisis simulation can actually be one of the best team building exercises your company has ever conducted. One to consider for your professional New Year’s resolutions list!