Every organization will have crises. Sometimes they're just smoldering embers, and other times they're raging infernos. They can involve immoral or illegal behavior, or relate to an event happening in the external world.
The most important question to consider is how will you respond when the inevitable crisis occurs? I refer to crises as "moments of truth.” These moments allow an organization's true colors to shine through clearly. When things go south, how will you respond? You may say you have transparency as a core value, but do you stop talking when things go poorly?
If you have money in your bank account, your check goes through. But if you write a $20 check and only have $10 in your account, every bank will be more than happy to cover the debt and then slap you with a hefty overdraft charge. Relationships between people are not this straightforward.
Consider the concept of the time-tested equity well. If you do a favor for a client, you make an addition to the equity well. You acknowledge a key accomplishment — this is another deposit in your relationship account. But it’s when you mess up, as all of us inevitably do from time to time, that you need to make a withdrawal. After too many mistakes, your equity well is empty. One more mess up and the other person says, "that's it...we're done." Unlike how a bank loans you the overdraft, that personal relationship is now bankrupt. Your relationship equity well is now dry.
Apply this approach to your business or organization. We all must add — on a regular basis — to the equity well for all of our key business relationships, knowing that someday we'll need to make a withdrawal. Be sure you always have enough funds to cover the loss.
Do Good and Get Caught
We all know that if we mess up, we'll get caught, but the same goes for doing something good. At Morningstar Communications, we often refer to proactive brand building as, “Do good, and get caught."
A cornerstone of effective crisis management and communications is to have a full equity well before the bad moment strikes. This approach helps build relationship equity with the organization's key audiences (employees, customers, suppliers, community...). We've all heard the phrase, "the best defense is a great offense." This expression is traditionally applied to sports, but when we make equity deposits, we're playing relationship offense before we need to play defense during a crisis.
Make a deposit every day to your business relationship equity wells. Send a thank you note. Provide advice. Give unsolicited ideas to your clients. All of these add to the balance.
When the inevitable crisis occurs, with enough “water” in the well, you’ll be able to put out the fire.
Onward and upward!