Different crises, same factors. So what needs to change?


So far, 2018 has been stacked with crises - and there’s no sign they will ease as we head into summer.

This is in a world where – in the words of my PROI colleague Claudia Guembe - “uncertainty is everywhere and preparedness is the new currency.”

Everyone agrees with this, right? It’s not rocket science.

And, of course, your organisation is actively working to mitigate known risks and to build organisational capability so it can perform well in a crisis.

Yet we see the opposite when scandal hits. And, when we analyse crises that have unfolded this year, we see common factors at play.

These are:

  • Not responding fast enough and allowing the issue to escalate.
  • Not recognising the seriousness of the original issue.
  • Individuals or organisations believing they’re above the law or societal norms.
  • A perception of not wanting to take real action to address the issue.
  • A perception of not being genuinely sorry for any wrongdoing.
  • Ongoing media and social media scrutiny keeping the issue alive.

We’ve observed how these factors stymie good crisis management, again and again. It’s got us thinking, and we’d love to hear your views too. We’re exploring these questions:

Why do these factors keep influencing the mismanagement of an organisation’s reputation?

Is this a leadership issue, or something else?

What three things could make a positive difference to crisis management?

We’ve looked back on 2018, and considered these political, sporting and corporate scandals:

The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica scandal, which ignited a debate on ethics and personal information, left the social media giant on the back foot and the data company insolvent.

Australia’s Royal Commission inquiry into in banking, superannuation and financial services, which took the scalps of senior executives and revealed misconduct throughout the industry.

The Cricket Australia (Baggy Greens) cheating scandal, which humiliated the team and impacted the character of a nation.

The #MeToo movement, which spread to Australia and New Zealand, with the exposure of sexual harassment behaviour in the workplace – most notably at law firm Russell McVeagh.

The Auckland fuel pipeline rupture, which impacted services at New Zealand’s international airport.

Biosecurity incursions in New Zealand (such as mycoplasma bovis, and kauri dieback).

SenateSHJ’s 2017 Reputation Reality survey found only 55% of Australian respondents (up from 49%) and 48% of New Zealand respondents (down from 50%) planned to invest in crisis simulation training. 

Given this is one of the most effective ways of preparing for a possible crisis, we’re expecting to see several more crises in the headlines this year.

I doubt this is what most CEOs envisage when they talk about the “need for their organisations, and themselves, to stand up, and stand out.”