Crisis management predictions for 2018

December 13, 2017 by Jonathan Hemus


From Equifax to Uber, BA to Grenfell Tower, 2017 threw up more than its fair share of crises. Listen to our crisis management webinar if you’d like to hear the lessons from these and other major incidents to help build your own crisis resilience.

Whilst it would be naïve to think that any organisation can make itself immune to a crisis, those that took crisis management planning and crisis communication training seriously will have found it easier to navigate the challenges which 2017 threw at them. As organisations begin to focus on their 2018 crisis management training programmes, what are the issues they can expect to face?

Based on our experience plus a little crystal ball gazing, here are five trends that we suggest should form part of your crisis management planning for 2018:

  1. Continued economic and political turbulence will create greater uncertainty and challenge organisations to be well organised, yet nimble and flexible in their crisis response
    Continued economic and political uncertainty – not least around Brexit negotiations and the unpredictability of President Trump’s words and actions – mean that businesses must expect the unexpected. When it comes to crisis management planning, this means not only having playbooks for your most likely risks, but also an over-arching approach to guiding your response to extreme and almost inconceivable risks. It also calls for organisational culture and leadership which is quick to recognise and address unexpected events.

  2. Many of 2018’s most damaging crises will centre on organisational behaviour, ethics and integrity
    2018 will inevitably witness further incident-led crises such as fires, IT outages and accidents. However, it is likely that the ones which are damaging to reputation will focus on organisational behaviour, ethics and integrity. Make sure that your crisis management planning – and in particular, your reputational risk assessments – recognise and cater for the enormous danger of an ethical or behavioural crisis.

  3. Personal behaviours of business leaders will come under scrutiny, impacting the reputations of the businesses they run
    Allegations of sexual harassment among celebrities and politicians have been rife in the final quarter of 2017. Expect the focus to turn to business in 2018 with senior executives in the spotlight. Ensure that your crisis management planning includes people and organisational risks, and that you scenario plan against them. Considering these sensitive issues in your crisis management planning can be uncomfortable; trying to manage an escalating issue without having done so can be catastrophic.

  4. Organisations will be increasingly judged based on their response to a cyber attack rather than the breach itself
    Any organisation can be the victim of a cyber incident, and attacks will continue to increase. As a consequence, organisations will be damaged not by the fact of a cyber attack, but for an inadequate response to it. Planning and training are essential if you are to maintain the trust and confidence of your stakeholders.

  5. Further acts of terrorism will put pressure on organisations to respond with professionalism, competence and compassion
    Sadly, the world will endure further acts of terrorism in 2018 and organisations must be ready to respond, both operationally and with effective communication. Major incidents always involve many different organisations and understanding how you would collaborate with them is critical. Developing understanding of how the emergency services operate and integrating this knowledge into your crisis management plans is an important first step. Rehearsing your response to a terrorist incident is also essential to ensure the best outcome in the event of an incident (for a powerful example of this, read the story of Rick Rescorla who led hundreds of people to safety in the aftermath of the Twin Towers attack).

The nature of a crisis means that no one can predict exactly what will happen, when or to whom. However, consideration of the trends above and thorough crisis management planning will help to ensure that you emerge from 2018 with your reputation intact.

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