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Are you risk ready if you are not communications ready?

3rd May 2017


The script of app-based cabs is no less than that of a Bollywood thriller. In one stroke of innovation that gave birth to app based cab services, daily commuting became a breeze. Drivers of cabs have never had it so good. It was a win-win situation for both. However, the growth based model that investors backed till yesterday got replaced with profitability based model. And that changed everything. The proposition ceased to be lucrative for the drivers who once saw the good times with attractive incentives. What happened after that is known to everyone.

There are many more examples like that that tell us that in the modern world, business is fraught with risk from variety of factors. Changes in regulations have never been so quick. The markets are volatile. Political activities have intensified the world over. Greed of the employees is costing companies billions of dollars. And internal and external perpetrators show the companies very often just what they don’t know about cyber security. 

These factors have the potential to cause severe damage to profitability or even shut downs.

Being risk ready is the only choice.

One of the Deloitte surveys (Risk Sensing) indicate that reputation risk remains among the top three risks when it comes to any crisis situation. As per another survey conducted among the board members, 70% board members think that corporate reputation takes more than a year to recover from past crisis.

Risk readiness or assessment aims to detect upcoming risks so that organisations are prepared to take those situations head-on to minimise potential damage. Most big organisations have developed the capabilities in terms of right people, technology and other tools. Some of the risks are around compliance, financial, operational or strategic areas.

However, crisis preparedness from communications view point is often missing even in those organisations, which supposedly have strong communication plans.

The three Ps of crisis preparedness and communications come handy – Pre-empt, Prevent and Protect

Pre-empt: Organisations are exposed to risks from multiple channels. And in many cases, we can pre-empt those. While business risk assessments throw up many possible scenarios that may be fed to communications strategists for possible response mechanism creation, there are many communications risks as well.

With proper study and planning, an audit of communication channels and all its vulnerability may be assessed. For instance, in an organisation which is into public dealing, if a journalist or a customer approaches the front desk, this very first touch point could prove to be a potential threat point. What if in a hospital, an accident victim is turned down, one tweet to the minister may turn out to be a big potential crisis.

The audit is done often in real-life situation when it catches the vulnerabilities unaware. And this throws up very interesting scenarios for which the organisations need to prepare.

Prevent: The first step of pre-empting helps ascertaining the scenarios. Prevention part is about studying these scenarios, preparing possible responses, training of all related stakeholders and testing it.

In the case of app based cab services, the turn of events was not like a bolt from the blue. Protests were held before in various cities, unions communicated to companies about their grievance and therefore, what happened was known to companies beforehand. While the communication between the companies and drivers is not known, commuters woke-up to exorbitantly high surge prices without any warning. 

This is a perfect example when one can pre-empt the upcoming crisis. And with the help of proper preparation, prevent erosion in reputation which is created with great difficulty. In this case particularly, even though the first few days must be nerve wrecking but at the end, the companies managed the situation well. The communication went out, a fair deal (at least from the companies’ viewpoint) was struck and its business as usual.

Protect: And while what happened has happened, at the time of crisis the role of communications is to protect the reputation. In this stage, not communicating could prove disastrous.

In case of Maggi ban, Nestlé continued to communicate to its customers about their doubts. So much so that they launched an FAQs page on their website to answer all the doubts raised by the media so that the audience knows the official version of the theories floating around.

Maggi won back the top spot in the market with sustained recovery of its market share.

Organisations which realise that the communications strategy needs to be discussed in the boardrooms are often the most successful ones in the market. And these organisations understand that the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.  

 

Aman Abbas is a senior communications professional based in NCR


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