Crisis and continuity. They’re the devil. They sneak up on you when you least expect it, and they never go smoothly. Ever. In fact, you’ll start to wonder if anything will go right. Ever again.
And this current crisis that we’re all living in is no exception. The perfect storm of COVID-19 (more lovingly referred to as Coronavirus) and the stock market turmoil has caught the world off guard and unprepared for the unexpected.
We knew that crises could happen. We knew they will happen. But what we’re finding now is how awesome it is to be prepared for when it does happen.
The silver lining is that it’s never too late to prepare. In fact, over the past week we’ve seen great examples not only of preparedness in the financial services industry, but also of having to create a response strategy because, well, you have to. Firms are now realizing that *virtual* communications are paramount. Our own Meg shared a video with clients explaining her own thoughts about the critical need to adopt a digital-first strategy specifically as it relates to virtual communication.
For those who embraced the virtual and digital opportunity early, they are ahead of the curve. They are utilizing digital channels – including video and audio – to engage and interact with clients, prospects, and partners across the country. In the past week, their preparedness and foresight has paid dividends. For others, they are now coming terms with the fact that although 1:1 facetime is critical, having a virtual strategy is equally as important when the situation is out of your hands.
As you assess your business and either start or continue your continuity planning, here are some key items to remember:
- Best laid plans. The best place to start when managing through a crisis is with the issues you know may be impacted. Some typical situations areas that you may have considered include continuity planning, data breach, death of an executive, and corporate malfeasance, to name a few. And now we have something new for the list – pandemics! No matter what the crisis – there are areas of your business that you know you need to prepare and safeguard. Although this sounds like a no-brainer, a recent Deloitte study (A Crisis of Confidence) showed that three-fourths (76 percent) of executives said that their company would respond to a crisis effectively if it happened tomorrow, but only half (49 percent) said that their companies have playbooks for likely crisis scenarios. (NOW you know!)
- Better late than never! So, what do you do? Team up with your “inner circle” (i.e. leadership team, third-party partners, etc.) to tackle the here and now, but don’t be afraid to imagine the unthinkable next scenario (even though you may feel that the unthinkable has already arrived). Talk through what you should do in each scenario. The action items can be simple: establish a chain of command, create business process to address the issue, identify communications process with clients and investors, and pre-draft messaging to cascade to target audiences, among others. But taking the first step IS the first step in preparedness.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. And then be prepared not to be prepared. As you’re preparing for different scenarios within our current or any potential crisis, just know: it never happens the way you planned for it. But the fact that you thought through issues, action items, and contingency plans puts you waaaaaay ahead of where you would have been had you not prepared. And the more of your circle that’s involved, the greater the likelihood that you’ll reach consensus sooner. But when the situation is different than what you envisioned, think of your preparedness as a roadmap based on what you know, but that you can use any of those tools and apply them to different situations that arise. And when a crisis hits, you’ll be glad you did!
- In partners we trust. When riding out a storm, knowing who to turn to is half the battle. For most, it’s your internal leadership team who you work with day in and day out. But then engaging trusted external partners to help contain – and provide outside perspective on — the situation is crucial. Tapping legal counsel is usually a no-brainer, but also giving your communications partners a heads up is a good best practice so they can keep their eyes and ears open for you. And then if you need to use their services, they’re already up to speed.
If you’re unsure of a risk to your business and whether you should – or should not – do anything, tap your inner circle and trusted partners for counsel and direction. And if it turns out you do need them, you’ll be glad you engaged them – sooner rather than later!