It’s no secret that technological and personnel crises can blindside a company causing long-term negative effects or, in some cases, permanent damage that is impossible to recover from. For tech-driven B2B organizations, these crises can appear in many forms and at highly unpredictable and inopportune moments. To make matters worse, corporate threats have become more common and sophisticated with each passing year and advances in how the world communicates have added new complexities. All of this puts effective crisis communication and management planning at a premium.
With the aforementioned challenges, it seems logical that high-growth, leading-edge organizations would have a comprehensive crisis management plan in place. In reality, many disruptive companies are currently ill-equipped to deal with inflammatory situations, which is ironic since high-tech, complex-sector enterprises can be especially prone to crises resulting from malicious use of technology, mishandling of data, professional negligence and rapid C-suite turnover, along with a laundry list of other corporate pitfalls. Adding to the problem, organizations that do have a crisis communication plan in place often neglect how they communicate with their customers and corporate partners when a serious issue arises.
At anthonyBarnum, we’ve worked with dozens of complex-sector tech companies to develop crisis communication plans that not only arm each organization with the ability to proactively respond to issues but with the insight to predict potential problems and self-correct before they arise.
Here are three common missteps in the tech sector that reinforce the need for a comprehensive crisis communication plan:
- Ignoring the possibility of potential technological abuses: All technologies are susceptible to potential abuses that their developers never envision. Often times, high-growth tech companies either fail to recognize crises or convince themselves that problems are inevitable and part of the process – “the cost of progress.” This prevents organizations from being realistic about preparing themselves with an effective crisis management plan that can anticipate and respond to such developments. Mapping potential areas of vulnerability and pre-determining communication channels can save time and help to contain the spirals.
- Overconfidence based on technical expertise: Having the technical skills and systems in place to handle operations for large organizations can breed false confidence and a sense of invincibility that makes crisis management seem deceptively easy. People need communications to understand the status of a situation. A salient crisis communication and management plan pairs well with acceptance that the unforeseen may not be immediately remediable. Communications to partners, stakeholders, employees and the media may offer containment and avoid over-reactionary conclusions being drawn that can cause more damage.
- Assuming all personnel are on the same page: While a positive culture goes a long way in creating a positive work environment, the reality is that companies face risks from internal threats on an ongoing basis. Turnover in the C-suite can leave a lot of concerns from all stakeholders – internal and external. Unsavory behavior within the company can tarnish a hard-won reputation. Yet, a significant personnel issue or major turnover cannot be simply swept under a rug. Silence breeds rumor and fear. If the issue is significant enough, it can also damage the brand if leadership doesn’t stand against unacceptable behavior from within its ranks. A crisis management plan needs to address these unforeseen issues—and not just to external audiences, but also to the employees who will be left with significant questions. While often every detail cannot be revealed, a strategic discussion and steps should be outlined as to how to contain the rumors and continue forward.
A crisis is not a stand-alone incident, but rather one component of a larger series of interconnected events. Canned, meaningless apologies and responses have proven they can compound a problem and set off a chain reaction of related crises. While it’s true B2B tech companies can’t always see the threat coming, the next best thing is to be prepared to ensure a quick recovery. Laying the groundwork and ensuring a rapid, genuine response takes place in the face of complicated technological and personnel situations can mean the difference between a business succumbing or rising above.