Thursday, October 15, 2009

Does "ROI" Hinder Your Crisis Planning?

The founder of the Institute for Crisis Management, Robert Irvine, had worked in corporate communications for 30-years before he wrote the first book on crisis communications "WHEN YOU ARE THE HEADLINE" in the late 80's.

After the book was published, he was in such demand as a speaker and consultant that he left corporate communications and started his own crisis consulting company, ICM.

He said when he started prospecting for clients, the book and his reputation gave him access to a number of top corporate executives. When he sat down with them, he began talking about his passion for building and protecting and occasionally rebuilding the corporate reputation. He said almost every time, his potential client's eyes would glaze over.

After months of frustration, he was telling a friend about his experience and his friend said, "Bob, these executives don't care about reputation. They care about dollars and cents -- the bottom line."

So, Bob decided to take his friend's advice and he said the next few executives he pitched for crisis planning and training, sat on the edge of their seats and listened to every word he had to say about the cost of having a crisis and the dollar savings of preventing crises.

But, he said, he couldn't resist preaching about corporate reputation and as soon as he switched from talking about dollars and cents to talking about protecting the company's reputation, their eyes glazed over.

Nothing much has changed since Bob started ICM in 1989.

The leaders of many organizations know they should have a crisis operations plan and a crisis communication plan and a business recovery plan. But almost every decision they make is based on that corporate concept of Return On Investment (ROI). If it costs $20-to-$30-thousand to create or even update a thorough crisis plan and train everyone to use it, where is the dollar return and how soon is the pay-off?

Many of the same decision makers are convinced that "nothing bad is ever gonna happen to this organization while I'm in charge!" So, they can't see any return on that expenditure.

A number of years ago, one of the international public relations organizations talked to Bob about sponsoring a PR competition for the best managed business crisis.
He didn't even have to think about a response. He said, how can you judge that? "The best managed crises are the one's no one will ever know about!"

If you're trying to get approval, or buy-in on creating a crisis plan or updating an old plan, do your research. Some of your peers and competitors have been through almost every crisis your organization will ever face. Many of them have been documented. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Point out what it cost in terms of lost business, lost employees, lawsuits, investigations, business failures and rebuilding costs. Compare that to the relatively small expense of preparing a plan or updating one.

And don't give up.

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