In medicine, there exists a great principle to prevent the majority of medical outbreaks: prophylaxis is better than cure. If we translate this into business practice, anticipating a reputation/communication crisis is entirely better than managing/fixing one.
At this moment, it’s important to get one thing straight: business is not just happening to you. We work with people; we communicate messages. We take actions that lead to consequences. Leading a business is already a full-time challenge, and a great leader acknowledges the improbability of being able to solely control and oversee all of the human actions and interactions happening in the enterprise.
Regardless of the sector we operate in, we should remember that we all deal with humans at work: be it customers, social media users engaging with your brand, business partners, people you try to sell your products to, people you seek investment from, or even your employees and vendors. Mapping accurately the scale of human interactions in business is sometimes almost impossible.
Genetically, the human is programmed to criticize or to spot the negatives way faster than positives, as a primal trait for survival lasting in our most basic behavior from Darwinist times. But despite knowing all this information, why do we still prefer to “manage a crisis,” instead of working on anticipating one, and allocating time to find potential triggers and patterns that may lead to potential reputation/communication disasters?
Communication is the most used and the most common business tool we all have access to, and it is the unofficial way to make or break our deals. Here are five simple ways to anticipate a communications crisis, and cut the chances of that actually ever happening:
1. Look into your team environment All crises have deep psychological roots in the behavior of your team. Healthy and efficient communication practices should happen first within your team or company in an honest, professional, and human way, before any other interaction with the outside world. Identify your communication challenges internally and fix them.
2. Be a role model yourself when it comes to communication If you are a business owner, CEO, or team leader, and your core action "verbs" are to delegate, to criticize and to hide behind emails, you are already a step away from a communication/reputation crisis. Before expecting or demanding anything from your team, you should be the one initiating healthy communication practices. Your team members will feel confident enough to gravitate towards you with real feedback and healthy team cooperation. This will improve your team retention, performance, and human interaction in customer service.
3. Train the team for crisis scenarios Airline pilots have to go through simulators every six months in order to keep their license, and therefore, their right to operate commercial airplanes. During simulators they create, go through, and solve worst-case flight scenarios, getting trained to anticipate all sort of in-flight crisis. As a result, flying is one of the safest ways of travel. Translate this into your team practice. Create hypothetical situations and train your team to identify red flags that can indicate communication or reputation crisis at a very early stage.
4. Learn to profile dangers in their early stages When it comes to business, we all find ways to predict and profile financial situations, exit strategies, and bankruptcy dangers. But busy business people often forget about the bad reputation or dysfunctional communication dangers. Learn how to profile a damaging situation by creating a danger assessment process. This will help you to identify on time how a certain action, campaign, customer service attitude, or employee interaction will affect your overall brand reputation.
5. Invest in human interactions Winning in business (or in life) starts with you being happy with yourself. Translating this into business terminology, it means that you have to choose to value the human interaction, and learn that your business exists because of your employee's efforts, investors who believed in your idea, the board members who might choose you as a CEO, and clients who choose to spend their money with your brand. All of this is the result of human interaction, and as long as you treat them the way you want to be treated, it most certainly will make a difference in your day-to-day business life and brand’s reputation.