We’ve seen some high profile crises in the financial services industry over the last few years. From the BHS pensions fiasco, The Rio Tinto Juukan Gorge scandal, and Neil Woodford’s downfall, financial communicators have witnessed a number of reputational shakedowns over the past decade. In partnership with Signal AI, we hosted a webinar earlier this week discussing all things crisis communications for financial services firms. With The Sunday Times’ Oliver Shah; Andrew Walton, Group Corporate Affairs Director at Lloyds Banking Group; Crisis Specialist, Zaiba Malik; and David Benigson, CEO at Signal AI, and our UK CEO Elspeth Rothwell chairing, we took a 360 view of crisis management in 2020.
From how to anticipate a crisis (or ‘story’ if you’re a journalist), effective stakeholder management, and when to stop listening to the lawyers and be human, the key takeaways from the session were as follows:
Preparedness is key
Regular crisis mapping, planning and workshopping is vital for effective crisis management. What would your brand do if an employee left a laptop full of customer data on a busy commuter train? Would you know where to start if there were allegations of corruption on the board? Or if something more sinister happened that put lives at risk, how would your brand respond and react? It’s impossible to plan for every possible crisis, but having a tried and tested process in place to deal with any issues as they unfold is a good second best.
Read the signs
While we can’t plan for the unexpected, we can equip ourselves with the best possible tools to anticipate and catch events as they unfold. This is where the use of intelligent signalling and robust monitoring systems can come into play – understanding not only when there is negative noise about your brand, but getting under the skin of the issues that are driving that.
The velocity of social media means news can break and blow up faster than ever before. Our role as communicators is to try and understand how big a story is going to get, and the pace at which it’s unfolding. Recognising how to respond is essential – for example, will a press statement suffice, or does your spokesperson need to get themselves down to Broadcasting House for the 6pm news?
Balancing time and tone
It is possible to apologise for something without admitting liability – and bringing humanity to the table can do wonders for a brand on the brink of a crisis. Don’t veer away from apologies if they are needed. Work with the right spokesperson and strike a balance between being factual and – most importantly – human.
Bring in external perspectives
Lastly, in times of crisis, external perspectives can provide needed distance from internal politics and culture. Invite a trusted and objective external voice to support you through your planning and workshopping, and then to have on speed-dial to bring in if a crisis hits. While diagnostic conversations may be uncomfortable and challenging to endure, they can be the difference between a crisis well handled and long lasting reputational damage.
If you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording here: