All businesses face significantly higher levels of risk today–just listen to board discussions or evaluate skyrocketing corporate insurance rates.
In our ubiquitous media universe, now a 24/7 environment, boundaries between traditional media outlets and digital platforms have blurred, making them somewhat indistinguishable from one another.
Customers, competitors, employees, advocacy groups, unions, investors, regulators, vendors, and the media see any post instantaneously–whether the post has been approved by the business or not.
Against this backdrop, boards and leaders should be reasonably educated on three potential crisis areas in 2023: cyberattacks, unauthorized leaks, and political missteps
In the face of such Black Swan events, last year’s thinking is ineffective at best. Those ill-prepared will suffer more than their 15 minutes of shame.
So, throw away your crisis plans. Most won’t work in 2023.
In an absurd turn of events that reveals how leaks come from everywhere, even Conti, a Russian group identified by the FBI as one of the most prolific ransomware groups of 2021, suffered the consequences of leaked documents.
You are on the news. Now what?
While the leak of the SCOTUS draft opinion in Dobbs prompted a broad spectrum of reactions, many people were appalled that the sanctity of court deliberations was violated.
Faced with the unprecedented leak, Chief Justice John Roberts’ response was spot on (from a crisis management viewpoint). He confirmed that the leak was an authentic draft, that justices were still deliberating, that they often used draft opinions to try to persuade each other, that no final opinion had been voted on, and that he would direct an investigation into the source of the leak.
Business leaders would be well served to look at the chief justice’s crisis response–and to follow his lead when facing an analogous situation.
When crafting internal documents there are simple principles to consider. First, define what you want to communicate and understand that the document could go public. What exactly is its purpose? Is it meant to share information, function as a call to action, or change opinions? What is the tone?
Second, the message must be clearly and concisely conveyed in plain English. As British social commentator J.B. Priestley said, “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”
One quick and simple test is to ask an entry-level employee to read the document and then tell you the one or two things they remember about it. If their comments do not encompass your key messages, consider rewriting.
If you can’t take the heat, get out of the media kitchen
Some CEOs have been speaking out on an array of political issues. That’s a problem for boards and companies as noisy internal or external groups continue to push business leaders to comment publicly on controversial matters.
One company that has been hurt by speaking out is Disney–the current case study on how not to deal with stakeholders. Disney did little publicly to address the new Florida law until after it was enacted. The company did not sign the petition numerous companies in the state issued before the policy proposal became law, then later jumped in, seemingly unprepared, by abruptly announcing opposition at its annual shareholder meeting.
In today’s polarized politics, no matter the issue, roughly 45% of people will support you and 45% will be against you, and about 10% will be undecided. The harshness of any pushback depends on the gravity of the issue–and how the undecided lean.
It is not that CEOs should be quiet on issues, but rather that it’s important to understand all circumstances, players, timing, and dynamics–and then pick your fights.
So before embarking in the political arena, leaders and boards should examine answers to basic questions about the quest: Is the issue mission critical to the company? Have leaders been briefed on where all sides stand? Will taking a position help or harm the company’s equity value, sales, reputation, and ability to attract and retain top talent?
Are you prepared for digital assassination in 2023? In the 24/7 media environment, corporate survival requires new thinking and critical adjustment accomplished at lightning speed. This is not a slow evolution. Those who fail to adapt will be reduced to a footnote in corporate history.
Today, artificial intelligence (AI) stakes are colossal with its capability of fabricating any reality whatsoever. Boards and management must be at the forefront of understanding the ethical adaptation of this advancing phenomenon, as well as grasp and embrace the depth and breadth of this all-encompassing technology, how it is changing business … and why ethical oversight is necessary. The article outlines five key action items for establishing a code of conduct for use of AI that will be vital to protect company brands and reputation.
The incessant onslaught of news and promotional messages could be undermining trust and causing anxiety.