10 Questions to Answer Before a Communication Crisis Hits your Organization

Do you have a pre-defined communications plan in place for a management or organizational crisis? Goldman Sachs’ handling of a recent crisis stirred up by disgruntled senior manager Greg Smith can be considered a PR ‘worst-practice’ crisis communications case. The company’s reactions and responses to a scathing editorial the departing employee wrote for the New York Times were underwhelming; their communications response was not just ineffective; it actually added fuel to the fire and made the situation worse.

Hopefully, you won’t ever have to deal with such a public debacle. But you still need to be prepared because $&?!#% always happens. Always.

When a crisis comes, are you and your team prepared to deal not only with the situation itself, but also with the related internal and external communications issues that arise?

By answering these ten questions, you will have the beginnings of a robust crisis communications plan that will ensure you’re prepared to face a communications crisis quickly, effectively and professionally:

10 questions to ask before a communications crisis hits your organization:

  1. What’s the overview of the process and does everyone on the management team know it, not only the communications team?
  2. Do your managers all have a one-page quick guide to do’s and don’ts for crisis communications?
  3. Do your managers have a generic flow chart outlining who does what when?
  4. Do your managers have some generic wording for informing clients about a crisis that can be tailored to the specific situation?
  5. Do your managers have a list of ‘taboo phrases’ to avoid in a crisis?
  6. 6. Do your managers have a list of generic statements to give internal audiences when crisis details aren’t yet known?
  7. Do your managers have a list of generic statements to adapt for internal audiences in the hours, days and weeks following a crisis?
  8. Do your managers have a list of holding statements for journalists that can be adapted to the specific crisis?
  9. Do your managers have a list of polite ‘no response’ phrases to answer journalists who ask sensitive or confidential questions?
  10. Do your managers have a template and process for collecting questions being asked by employees, clients, investors or journalists?

And one final (but important) question: Do the right people in your organization have the right answers to these questions? Ask, assess, then act.

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Making All the Right Moves, for Buildings and Businesses

at the site of building move in Zurich Switzerland

If you moved 60 meters in a day, you’d hardly expect a celebration. But when a five-story brick building was moved that far on 22 May 2012, the Swiss threw a party to celebrate the engineering feat. Beer tents, balloons atop the building and VIP speeches added to the festive feeling at the site next to the Oerlikon train station in Zurich, Switzerland.

A complex system of hydraulics and rails made the move seamless, albeit slow. (See the end of this post for short videos taken at the construction site.) The high level of technological and engineering expertise required to accomplish this goal cannot be underestimated. Weighing 6200 tonnes, the historic factory building is 80 meters long and 123 years old. It was the largest building ever to be moved in Europe. At 4 meters an hour, it took 19 hours to complete the move.

Why would anyone want to move such a building? The main reason for the move was that the train station was expanding; but when the owners wanted to tear it down, the public petitioned and won their battle to keep “Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon” the 1876 machine factory intact and standing.

The business applications of this ambitious engineering feat were also impressive. Technical teams worked in synchronization as they collaborated to make the move of the industrial building a success.

Do you ever have the feeling that making your business move even a few more meters toward tomorrow is a monumental feat? Consider these observations inspired from  Oerlikon to propel forward momentum in your organization:

  • Are you applying the right pressure to make it possible to move your business in the right direction?
  • Are you making all the right moves inside your organization to facilitate that forward movement?
  • Are you making them in the most effort-efficient way?
  • Are you recognizing and reminding people of the historical importance of your company’s legacy before you make any move?
  • Are your company’s foundations strong enough to endure such a move?

Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help.



Test Yourself Now: Take the Thought Leadership Self Assessment

take a thought leadership self testAt Thought Leader Zone, We frequently suggest that you ask, assess, then act; but remember, there is an absolute order to this process.

We have an easy way for you to get started. Click the link below for a quick 10 question survey designed to pinpoint where your thought leadership strengths and weaknesses lie and to help you assess where you need to be.

The results of the self-assessment are private and confidential. You don’t need to supply your name or other information, and we can’t see what you scored. Of course, if you’d like to assess your score in detail or learn more about what the results mean, just contact us. We’re ready to help with a free consultation.

The knowing/doing gap

mind the gapOne of the quotable quotes during World Water Forum 6 in Marseille, France, a few weeks ago came from the head of new Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, Lennart Sorby (@lennartsorby on Twitter), who said,

“We know what to do, but now the challenge is to get it done.”

Being able to turn good ideas and strategies into action is a critical capability of today’s thought leader. The gap between knowing and doing can be difficult to bridge, but it’s worth the effort – the payback is that those inside – and outside – your organization will see you as a more credible authority figure.

Are you known as a leader who does what you say you’ll do? Do you have a reputation of being a “leader of action”? Ask, assess, then act.

Photo by limaoscarjuliet via Creative Commons on Flickr

What’s happening?

To continue the theme over the last few blog entries, here are some additional thoughts about the field of competitive intelligence and thought leadership.

In business, thought leadership is about being ahead – well ahead – of your competitors. To be successful as a thought leader, you need to spot trends, pick up even weak signals in the marketplace and anticipate reactions to industry changes.

Thought leaders don’t just look at the past and present they shape the future. They don’t just react after something happens or act on something happening now – they create what’s happening.

Are you just reacting and acting or are you actually creating the future for your company and your industry? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help.

Doing now vs. doing next

Earlier I pointed out the differences between competitor and competitive intelligence and information and other combinations of those terms. At the risk of being repetitive, I’ll remind you about some distinctions.

Competitive information is the information that is published or in the public domain that focuses on a specific market or product, whereas competitive intelligence is what you know but others don’t. Similarly competitor information is published or in the public domain and competitor intelligence is unpublished but both deal with the actual competitor.

With those terms in mind, let apply them more closely to thought leadership; but to simplify, I’ll use the word “competitive” to include “competitor,” too.

Competitive information is being aware of what has already happened; and in today’s age of instant communication, what “just happened” could have occurred only seconds earlier.

Competitive intelligence is what’s happening now – the analysis you’re making of what only you know. It’s how you’re putting together those unique puzzle pieces about your competitor.

Thought leadership means that you’re not only thinking about what your competitors are doing now, but also what they’re doing next.

Do you know with any level of certainty what your competitors are doing now? What they’re doing next? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help.

Raising your CIQ

competitive intelligenceThis week I had a meeting to explain how competitive information differs from competitive intelligence, how competitor information differs from competitor intelligence and how market research differs from all of those fields.

Some would consider these “splitting a hair” differences, but each term refers to a unique concept. I’ll summarize briefly…very briefly.

Competitive information is the information that is published or in the public domain that focuses on a specific market or product, whereas competitive intelligence is what you know but others don’t. Similarly competitor information is published or in the public domain and competitor intelligence is unpublished but both deal with the actual competitor.

Market research, on the other hand, looks at “why buyers buy.” Competitor intelligence and information deal with “why sellers sell.”

Many simply lump all of these areas together as “competitive intelligence.” or CI. If you’re interested in learning more about competitive intelligence, look at, a one-stop shop window for the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals. You’re sure to raise your “CIQ,” your competitive intelligence quotient.

Here I’d like to discuss how CI and thought leadership are integrated and combined drivers of strategic competitiveness.

You can’t be a thought leader unless you know what people – especially your competitors – are already thinking. Once you are aware of and in touch with the thinking inside your competitor’s head – in their world – then you can position yourself ahead of that as a thought leader.

To separate yourself as an industry thought leader, you need to do thorough research so that you know what the thinking is inside the industry. Then you can create distinctive thoughts ahead of where the industry is – otherwise you’ll just be a thought follower.

What’s your CIQ? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help.

A relatively enlightening discovery

Albert Einstein

In September at the Cern underground research center near Geneva, Switzerland, one of Einstein’s laws was bent if not broken; and the repeat experiment just completed seems to confirm the findings of the first trial.

Basically, one of Einstein’s laws of physics states that it isn’t possible to travel faster than the speed of light. But scientists involved in both Cern experiments measured neutrons traveling some 60 billionths (yes, billionths) of a second faster than light travels.

Before throwing out Einstein’s special theory of relativity, scientists are continuing to examine all possible errors in their work and will rely on another laboratory in Illinois to confirm their results.

Are you ready to “throw out the old rulebook” when looking at the future of your industry and question all the current assumptions? Are you ready to challenge conventional wisdom in your industry — or your company — and tear up the textbook? If so, you might be at an inflection point. Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help.

That’s a big number! Politics versus economics in financial decision-making

More than 6 trillion USD was wiped from global stock markets with 12.1 percent drop in global market capitalization, according to Financial Times on 31 December. Elsewhere in that edition, an editorialist noted with dismay the importance of politics over economics, citing French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as prime examples.

Are your business decisions driven by economics or by external politics or by internal politics? In other words, are you making sound financial decisions based on your strategy or good-enough ones based on expediency? Are you balancing global and local politics as you design your strategies or are you focused only on the politics of the markets you’re in? Are your strategies being driven by the “squeakiest” wheels inside your company or on a balanced set of inputs? Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help.

And the victor is…

Victor Hugo

The recent “war of words” between Britain and France has been making international headlines lately. Victor Hugo once commented that the French and the English needed each other because they both got better from the competition.

Are you experiencing any particularly aggressive external competition right now? Are you using that brouhaha to strengthen your company?

Times of struggle against a common “enemy” can unify your internal team members and help them pull together in one direction — hopefully that is the direction where your company needs to go. Are you consistently clear about that direction and who is the true “enemy” so that internal competition is eliminated and the focus is only on the external competition?

Are you communicating your thoughts well to those inside — and outside — your company? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help.

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