David Kalson, principal of Kalson Communications and Partner with Beacon Advisors, Inc., is an expert in issues and crisis management. He has more than 25 years experience providing strategic communications counsel, on-the-ground assistance and highly targeted media relations and “new media” programs to manage issues and crises as well as reputation enhancement for both profit and not-for-profit organizations. We recently asked David a couple of questions regarding his role in Crisis Management:
1. As it relates to your current or a previous crisis management role, what’s one of the biggest challenges and why?
One of the biggest challenges in trying to manage a crisis occurs when a company has not developed a strong brand well in advance of a crisis. This applies to both B2C and B2B companies. Companies with strong brands produce products customers crave. Even during a crisis, say corporate malfeasance or a product recall, well-branded companies will enjoy a higher level of customer allegiance than a weakly branded company. People are still buying strongly branded VW and GM cars even after VW’s emission test cheating and GM’s ignition switch crises came to light.
Another important brand attribute many strongly branded companies enjoy is their ability to project humanity. Companies like Ikea or Jet Blue spend a lot of resources on their social media platforms and in community support programs. When a crisis strikes, these types of strongly branded companies prove the adage, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Stakeholders are much more likely to accept your crisis-related messaging if you have first established the company as humane and caring. Conversely, remember how BP’s Gulf oil spill crisis was worsened when its CEO famously acted insensitive to the people affected by the spill, complaining on camera while standing in front of a yacht that he needed to get his life back.
Strong brands also enjoy strong employee support, and that support can be a major asset when a crisis hits. Strong brands can actually equip their employees to carry crisis-related messages into their communities. Weakly branded companies with less employee support will have a tougher time managing their crises.
2. What is the most rewarding part of your job and why?
Helping to develop key messages that work effectively to address a crisis is very rewarding because it’s as much art as it is science. Developing key messages forces the crisis team to first identify the essence of what is often a very complex crisis situation, and then it must clearly communicate that essence. This task is then followed up with another rewarding job: Coming up with the toughest questions the organization is likely to get from the media and other constituents during a crisis and developing answers that work to mitigate the crisis.
David will be discussing “The Internet, Social Media and Crisis Communications” at this year’s conference