What to do in that "Oh F@$k" moment


Building resilient businesses is much more than an issues management approach.

We are living in a world inspired and influenced by technology; one where every business is in motion and must adapt to an accelerated environment full of change, threat and opportunity.

Friction is inevitable in such an accelerated environment. Put simply, a business that is in motion will sometimes bump into things. It’s not a matter of if, but when these ‘oh f@$k’ moments will occur. The question is what impact will they have – will it distract your business, impact your revenue, or could it even threaten your license to operate?

Navigating this world of motion and protecting your business’ reputation at the same time requires more than just the traditional approach to issues and crisis communication. Rebecca Wilson, Executive Vice President and Michelle Ryan, Head of Corporate, discuss why it takes business resilience.

Q. What is a "Resilience Framework"?

Rebecca: Resilience is about being prepared for the unexpected; listening, tracking, mitigating and recovering from issues as they arise and doing so fluidly, to minimise business disruption.

Resilience is using the learnings from past issues to drive incremental improvement to processes and responses. Importantly, it is an active approach to issues management and one that informs the business strategy – even in times of relative calm.

To achieve resilience as a business requires an understanding of the challenges that your business is likely to face and the risks of its operating environment; whether that be competitive, operational or compliance risk.

Resilience requires buy-in from the business leaders, but it can’t be just a top-down approach. Employees need to be involved. Any internal practice that gives a company the elasticity to deal with issues at their earliest genesis and a capacity to recover quickly is part of this framework.

Q. Why do you need to think differently about issues management?

Michelle: Times have changed. The traditional view of issues management is no longer relevant in this new world.

For example, the power has clearly shifted to the consumer and businesses need to be aware of the impact of this. Our global Brands in Motion research last year highlighted that of those who said they love a business, nine out of ten said they will have no hesitation in public shaming if that business steps out of line. And we as consumers are armed with the social media tools to do just that.

A crisis and issues response framework isn’t something you buy off the shelf anymore. It needs to be an active and have always on approach that relies on real data and insights to not only better respond to, but to be better prepared for potential issues in the first place. In this new world, issues management needs to be something you address with your communication teams and agencies as part of an integrated whole.

Q. What role do communicators play in building resilience?

Rebecca: The holy grail really is businesses ensuring that communications and corporate affairs professionals have a ‘seat at the table’.

As communications professionals we are risk managers. We understand the powerful external influences and we understand customers and other stakeholders. We need to be seen as advisors during times of crisis, not just tactical executors, and we are starting to see a shift.

I accepted my first board appointment on an ASX company and I’m there because of my understanding and navigation of risk and the power of communication in effective mitigation.

Q. How important is data in resilience?

Michelle: Data is a key factor in building a resilience model. We use data to identify potential issues and then monitor and track that issue, allowing for early intervention, ongoing management and a much deeper understanding of the sentiment and motivations of an individual or community.

Importantly, this same data can also be used to move from a defensive to an offensive strategy – the opportunity to take command of an issue and covert it to a positive input for reputation recovery and enhancement.

At the same time, data is only part of the equation. The information that we can access through listening is only as good as the level of analysis applied by whoever is accessing that information.

Our role today is to ensure we are applying an expert lens to data so we can appropriately identify risks but also appropriately advise businesses on how to plan for, or respond to, issues.

Rebecca and Michelle recently presented at Mumbrella's CommsCon 2019