Crisis is inevitable, so what’s your plan?
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” This quote is attributed to Mike Tyson, a lifelong expert at punching people. An unexpected crisis is a lot like getting punched in the mouth. Your world gets rocked, and things are coming at you quick, like punches from a pissed-off boxer. So how can we come out on top if crisis is inevitable and impossible to plan for?
The short answer, have a guy for crisis. The long one is working with that guy and your specific situation to make everyone happy. One such guy we recently interviewed is Jeff Chatterton, owner of PR Firm Checkmate Public Affairs. Jeff is a crisis specialist, he enjoys putting out fires, and his company provides service to you whenever you need it, 24/7/365. Crisis can come whenever, so they want you to have them on speed dial.
As he puts it, “the cameras are on, it’s loud, it’s noisy, and your employees, reporters, and politicians are looking to you. It’s scary, it’s chaotic, and it’s a mess.” Jeff started his business after witnessing too many awkward PR blunders and mismanaged statements. He saw an opportunity to help people when they needed it, not paying for a consultant full-time. You still get the specialized experience from years dealing with all manner of crises but only when things go south.
As we spoke to Jeff, one message became clear. Crisis creates hurt people, whether a workplace accident, a product recall, or a marketing mistake. Our best bet to move towards healing is to show empathy. Empathy comes from the Greek word empatheia, or passion, originating from pathos, or emotion. Empathy is “understanding the feelings of another,” a difficult thing to do in crisis. Jeff believes that empathy is the cornerstone of good crisis management. Removing yourself from the situation and imagining yourself in the other person’s shoes creates the best understanding.
Immediately trying to fix the problem without first showing empathy and focusing on the human beings on the other side is like putting up a new wall in the middle of a house fire. You need to extinguish the fire first. Otherwise, your solution doesn’t help, it just glosses over the burning drywall and billowing smoke.
Empathy is tricky though, the more involved we are, the harder it is to extract ourselves and see the other side. A dedicated third party can be a reliable guide, a lighthouse amid a negative storm. And no matter if you go with a specialist or stick to your own methods for dealing with crisis, empathy will get you much further than ignoring the problem or the people on the other side. Putting yourself in their shoes clears up the problem, giving you the chance to implement a solution for everyone, but only after addressing their concerns. You don’t want to be boarding up a house still on fire. Better to put out the fire first, for everyone’s safety.
Todd Miller has spent his entire career in the metal building products manufacturing industry. He is president of Isaiah Industries, an organization recognized as one of the world’s leading metal roofing manufacturers. Todd is currently Vice President of the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and a Past Chair of MCA (Metal Construction Association). Through his website, he strives to raise the bar on standards and practices to provide property owners with the best possible products for successful roofing projects.
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