In a Clutch

In a clutch … that is being in a tense, difficult or stressful situation or crisis.  A clutch player is someone who can be counted on to perform (or outperform) in such situations.

Clutch players possess common leadership qualities[1] including:

  • Focus – It’s more than concentration, it’s knowing and staying fixed on the ultimate endgame
  • Discipline – Maintaining your center, avoiding distraction and being rooted in the fundamentals
  • Adaptability – Flexing and responding given the situation, pressure points and vulnerabilities
  • Being Present – Being in the moment and mindful of situational nuances, impacts and context
  • Constant Striving/Fear & Desire as Motivators – Complacency is the enemy of greatness and friend of the mediocre.

Why bring all this up?  Because these qualities are essential to confronting a corporate crisis … when clutch performances are required.  The good news is these qualities can be developed and programs focused on embodied, mindful or centered leadership can help.

But equally, if not more, important to navigating dynamic, chaotic crisis situations is to actually have a crisis plan, know it and practice it.  Crisis management plans need to be an integral part of a company’s enterprise risk management process and should be informed by and evolve with the company’s strategies and risk tolerances.

Now, what does a crisis management program look like?  Most experts indicate such a program should:

CompassIdentify Risks and Priorities:  Its essential to identify key operational and reputational risks, but nearly impossible to anticipate everything. So, establish guiding principles to guide the risk assessment process.  Such principles could be centered around priorities like protecting people (employees, customers and communities), preserving corporate reputation, minimizing operational disruption or preserving assets, etc.

PencilDevelop the Plan:  The crisis plan should include well-crafted decision matrices robust enough to handle an array of contingencies as well as contain escalation protocols, key communications templates and an outline of roles/responsibilities and work flow.

Team tableForm the Team:  The crisis team should encompass a variety of disciplines and expert resources (both internal and external) to guide and execute the response.  The people involved may be different depending on the type of crisis and decision matrices can help identify this.

ArrayPractice the Plan:  Practice enables crisis team members (internal and external) to build relationships and trust with each other.  Whether it’s a table-top simulation or a robust fire drill, practice will make you faster and nimbler when the need is real. It can also help identify areas where additional training, support or resources may be needed to reduce risk.

Danger signKnow How to Deploy: Work the plan. Gather information and stay focused on guiding principles.  Leverage the plan’s communication process and regularly share information as appropriate with key internal and external stakeholders.  After an event, let your guiding principles prioritize an integrated recovery plan.

Magnifying GlassReflection: After a crisis, conduct a post-mortem of root causes and what went well and what didn’t during the response. Reflect on underlying factors and take action to correct, mitigate, improve. Communicate key findings to stakeholders such as employees, customers, suppliers, communities or regulators as appropriate.

In a clutch, investor relations officers will be talking with investors nearly non-stop during a crisis.  So, think through the best ways to communicate with investors, who the key influencers are and who may need to be prioritized for outreach whether by you, your management team or board post-crisis.

Other Practical Tips for IROs:

  • Crisises aren’t always a surprise. Warning signs often abound. Develop a bullet-point outline for top of mind issues. Yes, there will be holes and you can’t anticipate everything, but it will be faster than starting from scratch.
  • Keep a key contact list with you – at home, the office, your briefcase. Even better, save a PDF copy to your phone, tablet and laptop – you’ll almost always have one of these with you.
  • Be prepared to handle a crisis remotely. Develop a process checklist or reference sheet (see sample) that contains emergency contact information and login IDs for key vendors such as your newswire service. Again, keep a copy with you and on your electronic devices.

 

Lisa Ciota
President/Founder
Lead-IR Advisors, Inc.

[1] Sullivan, P., Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t.

Be Prepared

Recently I was contemplating some year-end messaging for a company with operations affected by the late summer 2017 hurricanes that hit the U.S. Gulf Coast.  Happily, company staff were all safe and accounted for after these disasters.  While clean-up and repair costs and significant supply chain disruption, including freight/logistics challenges, negatively impacted EBITDA, through it all the company continued to support customers and delivered quarterly EBITDA growth in a challenging industry.

Coincidence?  Effectively navigating a crisis while still delivering strong results?  Sure, a lot of things have to go right to deliver strong results, but without an effective crisis plan it could have all been derailed. Sadly, not all companies are as well prepared.

CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS READINESSCrisis Comms Infographic - SizedSource: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Containing a Crisis, 2013

In my view, there are two very broad crisis categories – Operational and Corporate – each with several subcategories.  For example, an operational crisis can relate to a company’s ability to conduct business within its own facilities as well as events at critical suppliers or customers (e.g., supplier performance issues or customer bankruptcies).  Corporate crisises can relate to reputational, financial or regulatory issues, such as allegations of harassment, fraud, environmental violations or an inability to access credit.

Every crisis is potentially a financial crisis with reputational, profitability and valuation implications, that’s why Investor Relations should be imbedded in process.  Companies should have a holistic crisis plan with well-crafted, relevant decision matrixes that reflect key guiding principles such as protecting people (employees, customers and communities), preserving assets or minimizing disruption, etc.  The decision matrixes should be broad and flexible enough to handle an array of contingencies and include an outline of roles, responsibilities and, where necessary, information and work flow.  The crisis team should encompass a variety of disciplines and expert resources to guide and execute a response.  The people involved may be different depending on the crisis and decision matrixes can help identify this.  

Now, having a plan is not enough.  It’s essential to practice it to identify gaps and enable the crisis team to build relationships and trust with each other.  Whether you do a table-top simulation or a robust fire drill, the experience will make you faster and nimbler when the need is real – an important consideration in today’s 24/7 news and social media cycle. 

Practical Tips for IROs: 

  • Crisises aren’t always a surprise. Warning signs often abound. Develop a bullet-point outline for top of mind issues. Yes, there will be holes and you can’t anticipate everything, but it will be faster than starting from scratch.
  • Keep a key contact list with you – at home, the office, your briefcase. Even better, save a PDF copy to your phone, tablet and laptop – you’ll almost always have one of these with you.
  • Be prepared to handle a crisis remotely. Develop a process checklist or reference sheet (see sample template attached) that contains emergency contact information and login IDs for key vendors such as your newswire service. Again, keep a copy with you and on your electronic devices.

Enjoy these posts?  Sign up to receive them via email
and like them on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Lisa Ciota
President/Founder
Lead-IR Advisors, Inc.

 

Crisis Mgmt Template for Investor Relations