By Gerard Braud
Your expert crisis communication and public relations feedback is invited on this crisis communications case study.
A global company called to inquire about my crisis communication plan program and training. Their corporate revenues are $2 billion dollars annually. The company stock trades at about $66 per share. It has about 8,000 employees worldwide. Experts and media are doing an increasing number of reports questioning the safety of one of the company’s main products, which is suddenly in high demand because of changing trends. News coverage is both favorable and unfavorable
What might a single crisis cost this company in revenue and reputational damage? That is the question I always ask to help a corporation, CEO, or public relations team make an informed decision about spending money for a crisis communication plan or crisis communications training.
If you had a corporate public relations crisis looming, would you spend $7,995.00 U.S. to protect your revenue and reputation? Would the CEO or CFO grant your budget request?
The $7,995.00 is the price I quoted to the company for them to have access to my proprietary 50 page crisis communication plan system, with 100 pre-written news releases, plus expert crisis training for their staff, all delivered in two days. The estimated value of such a crisis communications plan could be placed at $100,000 with the standard amount of time to complete this task being six months to one year. The crisis communications plan and news releases have more than 4,000 hours of development built into them.
Some corporate experts would say this is a “no-brainer.” Experts might say, “A single crisis would cost us more than $7,995 in loss product sales or in a stock price dip.” Hence, those people would buy the plan without giving it a second thought.
Other experts would say, “Heck, the crisis communications plan would cost less than 125 shares of stock.” Hence, those people would see the crisis communications plan as a value.
Another group might say, “Heck, if we lost one sale because of bad publicity and this crisis communications plan helped us thwart the bad publicity, the plan would pay for itself many times over.”
However, this company clearly undervalues the crisis communications plan and this executive undervalues the crisis communications plan. The prospective client said it was “spendy.” Yes, that was the world a senior executive used. Obviously, I did a poor job of convincing this corporate leader of the value of the crisis communications plan. The leader sees the plan as a commodity, while I view my plans as a value.
The secret to undervaluing a crisis communications plan lies in what psychologists say is the single greatest human flaw: Denial. One psychology expert tells me that humans are instinctively programmed to say, “That crisis won’t happen to us,” or “We’ll just deal with that crisis when it happens.”
Denial is why public relations experts and corporate leaders don’t get along in the workplace.
A public relations professional sees a crisis communication plan as a vital tool to do their job, just as an accountant needs a calculator, or just as a mechanic needs a wrench. Yet the corporate leader, in denial that a crisis communications plan is a necessary tool, will insist that the accountant must have the calculator, and that the mechanic must have a wrench, but that the public relations person can magically slap together words and strategy in a bind.
I believe a public relations person without a corporate crisis communications plan is the equivalent of the accountant counting on their fingers, while the mechanic is told to use his or her hands to loosen or tighten vital bolts.
The reality is every corporation must justify every dollar it spends. This case study highlights three things:
1. A crisis communications plan is seldom perceived as an item of value in a corporation.
2. Most public relations people are undervalued in their jobs because they are often denied the tools they need to do their job, yet ironically are expected to produce magic on the company’s darkest day.
3. Denial is the reason corporations do not allow their public relations people to take time and a few dollars on a clear sunny day to protect the revenue and reputation of the company when it faces a crisis on its darkest day.
A wise business coach told me that, “Some people get it and some people never will get it. Work with the ones who get it, dismiss the ones who don’t get it… and then watch them fail on live TV when they have their crisis.”
Hence, every time I take the stage as a speaker, to deliver a keynote at a conference or convention, I look out over the audience knowing some get it and some never will. Sometimes most people in the audience get it, but when they return to work, their bosses won’t get it.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion.