Lukaszewski's 12 Axioms of Crisis Survival (2014 Edition)
Managing emergencies, crises, and disasters successfully means recognizing patterns of success and avoiding patterns of failure, and defeat. Understanding these patterns enables us to coach and prepare management's actions, emotions, and expectations before and during emergency situations. Here's what I've learned:
- Neither the media, your toughest opponents, smartest critics, nor the government knows enough to defeat you. Defeat is almost always the work of uninformed or over confident, overly optimistic bosses, co-workers and associates; well-meaning but uninformed friends, relatives, or from dysfunction in an organization.
- All crises are local, at the beginning. Keeping the issues and focus tight and small will help you solve your problems and move forward. Your "industry," outsiders, or the media cannot solve your problems (they don't care), nor can you solve theirs. You must solve your own. It’s your destiny. Manage it or someone else will.
- Disasters and problems rarely kill products, brands or companies unless you let them. It is your silence, negative communication and attitude that cause tough questions, bad stories, and real damage. Silence is the most toxic strategy of all.
- Colorful and memorable language creates headlines that last forever, are impossible to live down and is among the most frequent causes for top executive dismissal during a crisis. Bad news always ripens badly.
- Twenty-five percent of your resources and fifty percent of your energy during emergencies go toward fixing yesterday's mistakes. Crises are messy, sloppy, imprecise situations. Everything gets worse before most anything gets better.
- Positive, aggressive, assertive communication limits follow-up questions, focuses on the most important aspects of the problem, and moves the entire process forward to resolution despite a negative environment, an antagonistic news media or contentious social media, angry victims and survivors. Positive, constructive, compassionate actions always speak louder than words.
- There is no question you can be asked about your situation that will surprise you. You may get irritated, agitated or humiliated because a really tough or touchy subject is raised, but you aren't surprised. Promptly answering every question is your ongoing opportunity to get your messages out, and calm things down.
- Preparation, rehearsal, and a certain amount of luck will keep you going and help you win.
- Luck is limited.
- The general public does not care about your problems until you make them care.
- Fifty percent have no reason to care;
- Twenty-five percent probably have troubles worse than yours, from their perspective, anyway; and
- If you get the attention of those remaining, they will probably be glad you have the trouble you have.
- Leadership that shows compassion, community sensitivity and ethical response strategies moves companies to victory and out of harm's way. Timidity, hesitation, confusion and arrogance bring defeat and long term trust damage. Keep the positive pressure on to win.
- Destructive management communication behavior and language often leads to similar troubling behavior at many levels within an organization. Leadership has three principal responsibilities in crisis: Stopping the production of victims, managing the victim dimension, and setting the moral tone for the response.
James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA is the author of
Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication, What Your CEO Needs to Know About
Reputation Risk and Crisis Management
, available now at Amazon.com
Labels: America's Crisis Guru, axioms of crisis survival, crisis, defeat, failure, media, success, Survival
The Politics of Employee Communications: Building Community Consent
By James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA
For an organization to succeed,
each day, at least 51 percent of those who matter have to be pulling in the
same direction. That requires leadership
from the top, every day, to show the way and to help forecast and overcome the
new barriers that arise and the old barriers that persist. This is a tall order in many organizations.
Some leaders are good
communicators, some are non-communicators.
Some leaders are good delegators, some are autocrats. Some leaders are bureaucrats, some are
activists, and some are charismatic. The
reality is that organizations will be successful in the context of their
current leaders and leadership.
The lesson for every leader is
that success is more likely when simple, sensible, constructive efforts are
undertaken to build and maintain a base within the most important audience most
leaders have, their employees and others whose lives are directly affected by
their organizational relationship.
The question is, of course, how
can management accomplish its goals while allowing undisciplined, often chaotic
communication strategies? Answer: With
great difficulty, if at all.
A business organization is very
similar to a political body, so we begin with a political strategy—to win in
any environment, those seeking to advance, lead, or achieve must have a base of
winning-minded collaborators and followers to get the job done and establish
the momentum to tackle the next challenge.
The political exercise is one of simplification rather than
complexity. Effective communication is
an exercise in process-driven execution.
We begin the process of base
building using the Ridgeway Audience Issue Analysis
model. Communication success is
dependent almost solely on the base audience’s level of interest in
participating, or not, in a given situation.
Figure One is the fundamental tool for carrying out this analysis. Here is the key: an issue generally has two types of
audiences—the Base Audience and Special Publics. The Base Audience consists of those who have
an ongoing, voluntary or involuntary interest or connection to the issue or
circumstance. Usually the connection is
a paycheck, some overwhelming benefit, or a threat that needs to be
The second audience component is
the Special Publics grouping. Special
Publics are individuals, organizations, or entities that have a relationship
with the sponsoring organization based on the individual agendas of each
Special Public, sometimes in opposition to the agenda, issues, or questions of
the Base Audience. In this template, the
small circles on the left represent a wide variety of organizational types and
groups that are connected to the issue or organization by their private
In the Base Audience section, you
see, by the construction of the model, that the ideas and concepts to drive the
issue or the organization forward begin in the center with Leaders. Communication moves out systematically to Top
Management, then to Upper Management, then to Middle Management, then to
First-line Supervisors, then to Employees, then to Employee Families, and then
to the Community as a whole. There may
be some other some groups (such as retirees, crucial customers or clients,
sympathetic public policy makers, or any discrete group with collateral
interests who make up the remainder of the Base Audience).
Perfecting the ability to systematically
communicate with these groups and maintain a relationship is where most
corporate and organizational initiatives fail.
The process requires discipline, constant analysis, feedback, and action
taken immediately or preemptively, as required.
Base Audience success is almost always dependent on the First-Line
Supervisor. Special Publics pay
attention, on their own, talk to Top Management directly, but also (and often)
throughout the Base Audience as well.
Note the arrows moving out from
the Leader. This is a reminder that, to
really benefit from this process, leadership must enforce the process of
cascading communication from the top of the organization all the way out until
the public or target audiences are reached, if that is the goal. The crucial insight of this model is that
failure to energize the base and capitalize on what often are hundreds and,
potentially, thousands of communicators is the chief cause of defeat, delay, or
Also note the arrows going into
the Base Audience circles, from the outer most ring to the inner most
ring. Failure to systematically cascade
information outward destroys the opportunity to have a continuous flow of
incoming information, intelligence, and responses from the communities of
interest that each of these Base Audience segments connects to.
Most successful initiatives
require effective intelligence, input, and issue surveillance. The success of this entire approach rests on
top management and, in particular, the leader of the organization, and the
nature of the relationship desired with the front line supervisor.
There are five predictable,
usually ongoing mistakes that cause internal communication efforts to fail:
attention is paid to Special Publics
Chances are that we like these Special Publics. They are more like management in terms of
leadership and, perhaps, even social station.
Some may be famous, rich, or powerful.
It is just more fun to deal with the publics that seem to be ready to
deal with us.
Why is this a failure strategy? Because every one of these Special Publics
has its own agenda that predominates and dominates its reason for being
connected to you and your issue. Special
Publics may abandon you, or bug you if their interests are being underserved or
plug in your base
. When the
Special Publics have questions about motivation, strategy, decision making, and
even results, they move around Leaders and Top Management, and talk to friends,
relatives, acquaintances, and informants located throughout your Base
Audience. If the Base Audience’s
response is, “Management never tells us anything,” you can bet that you have
given the Special Publics more power than you intended.
answering questions the base is asking.
When members of the community—including public policy makers, potential
beneficiaries, or victims—inquire or are concerned about your strategies, they
too will check with your base rather than with senior management. Once again, if the Base Audience is out of
touch, disconnected, or disgruntled, the community will get mixed signals at
best, if not outright internally sponsored opposition to the key ideas you are
proposing and communicating about.
and Middle Management to block or control communication.
This is silo country. The job of these managers is to sanitize,
prioritize, homogenize, and detoxify any information getting to Top Management
or Leaders. This group I refer to as the
“ladies in waiting” (maybe the boss will stumble today and one of us will get
the job, at least for a period of time).
In all my years of working in this arena, breaking down these barriers,
punching holes in the silos has been an almost insurmountable task. The one strategy that does work is to
leapfrog over these individuals and have the boss go directly to First-line
Supervisors, Employees, and even the Community.
Force them to pay attention to what is going on in the organization
rather than just looking up, blocking key information, and watching what the
boss is doing, thinking, or deciding, all the while protecting their own turf.
Get ready for the complaints,
whining, and pushback of Upper Management.
Here is what you are going to hear, “If you insist on going around us,
you diminish and, in fact, destroy our authority.” “How can we be expected to run the business
if the boss can do and runs all the time, whenever he or she feels like
it?” “I worked a long time to get here,
now I want to have the control I thought I would get.”
failure by Top Management and Leaders
This is the most crucial ingredient to any employee communication
strategy. Leaders must have the courage
and the strategic foresight to leapfrog Middle Management and have an ongoing
conversation and relationship with First-line Superiors. First-line Supervisors are kind of like Crew
Chiefs or Master Sergeants in the military.
The place falls apart unless these individuals are there to run it in a
knowledgeable, useful, and helpful way every day. It is the boss’ job to get out to the
Supervisors on a regular basis to brief them, coddle them, compliment them,
cite their successes, help them learn from their failures, and force them to
pull information from those above them (in Middle and Upper Management).
Can it be this simple, you
ask? In practice, it requires discipline
and a genuine commitment by managers at every level to recognize the need to
cascade information further down the process.
By the same token, managers need to make sure that appropriate feedback
gets pushed up the line and actually reaches top management.
Management’s goal in employee
communications is to connect with and direct 51 percent of those who
matter. If 51 percent of those who
matter can work together, the success of virtually any organization will be
Labels: communication, employees, employers, leaders, Lukaszewski, management, politics of employee communication