As a communications professional, you are on standby 24/7 to manage a crisis for your client. You meticulously chart crisis management plans and have A, B, C and the whole alphabet of backup plans. However, you often omit the fact that you are also not immune to crises and lack a Crisis Management Plan for yourself.
Oftentimes, you are unable to avoid them because you made no active and direct contribution to their development. Such crises are initiated by third-parties, yet you pay for these externalities with your career opportunities and sometimes well-established strategies, hence the need for a Crisis Management Plan.
It happened with PR and Communications professionals across Russia and Ukraine when the European geopolitical confrontation occurred in February. The market was disrupted in a flash due to the economic decline, and it was not the end: foreign partners were sanctioned (or companies were sanctioned for their partners abroad), physical events were cancelled by the closed borders or even infrastructure damage, virtual events could not hold because of power and Internet distortion and business communications was the furthest thing in people’s minds under the existential threats.
I experienced this third-party crisis myself. As a Project Manager and Public Relations Specialist who resides in Russia and works with African companies in markets across Europe and Africa, I was invited to speak about seizing career opportunities in international organisations and multicultural work environment at #PRandMore this March.
Once the conflict escalation on my continent became clear, I postponed my session. The decision was against my personal interests, yet informed by sustainability of the brand’s reputation and public moods.
Virtual events are fully dependent on stable connection and uninterrupted data traffic. These foundational components of positive experience were undermined with the bitter reality that social media platforms become a battlefield in conflicts like this. Thus, my government began throttling Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (the abode of creative entrepreneurs and the event venue). Positive user experience of attendees turned out to be unfeasible.
As a communications specialist who must nurture emotional intelligence and be sensitive to public moods, I also soberly realised that the global audience, irrespective of its segments, is not psychologically ready to listen to a Russia-affiliated speaker this time around. And as a political scientist by university education, I perfectly understand why.
My personal example reminded me of a necessity to create crisis management strategies not only for your clients but yourself. Either a cancelled event or exclusion from the labour market due to macro-economic jolts, crisis can appear from every corner in various disguises.
Steps to follow for PR and Communications Practitioners in creating a global crisis management plan
Here are some advice that I consider useful for myself to follow and believe that it will be equally fundamental to all PR and Communications Practitioners, who are subject to global crises, and that’s literally all of us.
- Build relationships beyond immediate benefits but for long-term value. When crises occur, people especially gravitate towards humanity and unconditional interaction. Network and volunteer to accumulate some communications capital that may become your safety cushion and bring new employment channels in trying times.
- Expand your professional connections outside your country of residence. Though global outreach increases a possibility to bear the impact of global crises, it equally increases chances to apply your expertise in another place.
- Export your personal brand to more social media platforms. In the modern world, digital space is an object of governments’ expansion while your professional capital is not protected by any national insurance. The more digital assets that reflect your personal brand`s identity you have, the less possibility to go bankrupt there is.
- Double down on your efforts to carefully converse online. During ongoing socio-political tensions, the safest option is to restrain from or at least reduce sharing your personal opinions that can inspire agitated debates and therefore negatively affect your personal brand.
- Put your time management and skill acquisition modes on alert to be ready to upgrade or even reboot your expertise. When global business resources shrink, it is critical to effectively manage your own.
- Prevent the crises you can avert and timely react to those unavoidable.