October 2 2023
A few years ago, if a client was about to face a crisis, they would first call their preferred lawyer to arrange for an appropriate legal specialist who can conduct a situation analysis.
Today, that is no longer necessary. The same lawyer would ask to involve immediately a communications specialist in the team, who will monitor the case, handle journalist calls and inquiries, and develop a communication strategy.
The first step in any risk situation is to form a crisis committee with the right individuals — both from within and outside the company — who will analyze scenarios, define strategies, and appoint a spokesperson.
This is due to the well-established understanding that any corporate crisis can significantly impact a company’s reputation and image. Hence, any crisis strategy must factor in the potential consequences on corporate reputation and company value.
In Chile, numerous cases exist where companies have lost value and executives have suffered reputational damage.
The question is how many of them sought timely advice from communication specialists and how many genuinely heeded their crisis advisors.
The professionals we are talking about here need to possess the ability to understand media operations, anticipate the motives behind journalists’ inquiries, conduct investigations, solicit opinions from various stakeholders, and reconstruct facts based on accurate data, and, finally, present them in a clear manner for universal understanding. This is commonly referred to as storytelling or message crafting. At this point we are talking about communications strategists. Undoubtedly, this is not a skill that can be fully acquired in a communications school; it needs substantial practical experience and exposure to diverse crises to offer effective guidance.
This realm of communications expertise has emerged in conjunction with the concept of Corporate Reputation, a topic widely deliberated in seminars and articles today. Nevertheless, this concept, now overly utilized, has been overshadowed by “fake news” and post-truth, as numerous false pieces of information are fabricated around conflicts to tarnish an individual’s image or to manipulate public perception of reality.
Crisis communication management is not a novel practice within the communications field. Nevertheless, there is strong awareness for the dire repercussions that mishandling communication can yield, even within the legal sphere, intensified by the swift spread of social media. A notable Chilean legal expert remarked in a recent article, “The court of social judgment is often more severe than that of the actual courts.”
Finally, a piece of advice: refrain from engaging as an advisor in a crisis if you do not believe in the account of the individual you are assisting. This is because clients frequently conceal the truth, and this truth might come to light halfway through, which is detrimental when you are the spokesperson and face of that company in front of the media.
This blog post originally appeared in Spanish at LatAm business portal Simalcohere.