Lately, it seems like there is one new corporate crisis after another in the headlines. Some of the largest, most visible, and successful companies are being forced to publicly apologize while feverishly attempting to convince their customers that these unfortunate incidents are only isolated blips that don’t imply the presence of any systemic organizational issues.
What’s going on here?
Is it arrogance, weak leadership, corporate greed, human error, or bureaucracy? Or is it simply the newfound social media cautionary tale?
Make no mistake—systemic issues are at play and there is a connection among all of these communications crises.
While evolving technology has increased the number of brand touchpoints available for instantaneous distribution of damaging content to millions of people, technology is not the root cause of this dysfunction. The corporate dysfunction isn’t new either. In reality, organizations and people haven’t changed; there has always been corporate dysfunction.
The very DNA of an organization is revealed through each and every touchpoint. When interactions reveal weakness, deeper problems within the organization are exposed. In an interconnected world where companies can fall from grace in hours, it has never been more important for leaders to address the common thread that creates corporate crises: a lack of clarity that originates at the very core of the organization.
Clarity is what happens when leaders take a holistic view of their strategy, people, and story—and ensure that there is alignment with each.
An outcome of alignment is a sustainable, positive culture with strong leadership. With clarity, employees at every level know how to live out the vision, mission, and purpose of the organization. They understand the behaviors expected of them every day. This clarity guides the people who work for the company and provides the reason for everyone to come together and serve.
It is this DNA that is the soul of an organization and drives decision-making, profits, and improves performance. Finding and leveraging that clarity is the difference between:
- A spokesperson communicating a difficult decision or creating an entirely new crisis.
- Customers believing the firm does care about their privacy or that everyone is management is a liar.
- A passenger walking off an airplane or being dragged off; a pet arriving at its destination alive or dead.
- Being seen as being committed to doing more to solve domestic and sexual violence issues or seen a being more interested in damage control.
- Being revered for your role as one of the leading technology disruptors in the world or being reviled for the way you treat your employees and customers.
The digital economy has forced leaders to prioritize trust, transparency, and authenticity. It is no longer possible to explain our way out of crises or dysfunction. We must understand that the most contrite apology statements, countless refunds, or discounts will not fix crises that reveal systemic dysfunction.
Many examples of great companies that have successfully overcome public relations crises with openness, honesty, and empathy exist. The company names may not be at as memorable. But thanks to the clarity within their organizations, their customers forgave them, and in many cases, the connection with those brands actually improved.
The key to successfully managing any public relations challenge today is to find organizational clarity before the crisis happens.
Have you found organizational clarity?
Today’s guest contributor is Brad Deutser, president of Deutser LLC , a consulting firm that advises leaders and organizations about achieving clarity, especially in times of transition, growth or crisis.
Image source before quote: Pixabay