“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, …” –Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
I often use this Dickens’ quote when describing situations in business (and life!). It is also applicable to Communications: the area of every organization that is responsible for communicating with an organization’s “publics”.
While Communications is a fun and exciting area to work in, there are many times when the real importance of Communications becomes apparent only when dealing with crisis management or, as the title to this post suggests, “the worst of times.”
Issue and crisis management supports organizational leadership when things don’t go as planned. Communications has a key role to play because these professionals can often see the forest from the trees; unlike management or individuals directly involved in the issue, Communications professionals are not players in the issue at hand but rather generalists who can tie in ideas and areas of the organization promoting a crisis turn-around or positive outcome.
One such example is Communications’ obsession with getting terminology correct. Take, for example, the often confused difference between issue and crisis management:
Issues Management involves identifying any potential issues as a result of policy, communications, actions etc. and creating a strategy that serves to address issues in a positive way.
Crisis Management relates to managing the damage an issue might have on company reputation or bottom line. It involves recognizing warning signs such as: 1) unexpected event 2) media and stakeholders demanding info/resolution 3) online rumors 4) loss of control (when unfortunate events expand in scope).
Organizations and individuals may experience “the worst of times” but it is up to both leadership and individuals seasoned in the art of Communications to leverage these as opportunities to show increased clarity, values, ethics or empathy with the public. While planning ahead for a crisis (who, what, where, when, how) is part of the role of a Communications or PR professional, the moments of truth may very well be in “the worst of times” and the goal should always be to bring around the issue or crisis to embrace, once again, “the best of times.”