June 28, 2022 — It’s easy to think a crisis is all about you when when your telephone is ringing incessantly with angry calls from reporters. Or when your social media accounts are being bombarded with vitriol. Or when government officials are threatening to investigate your organization.
In reality, it’s not about you. At least your response to the crisis shouldn’t be focused on you.
One of the keys to surviving crises is to aim for a higher purpose. If your company’s defective product is causing harm to consumers, then your focus should be on public safety. If your organization experiences a data breach, then your focus should be on restoring customer confidence in your technology.
It seems obvious, but more than a few organizations and their executives have failed to recognize this essential truth.
Who could forget former BP chairman Tony Hayward who said, “I want my life back,” in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010? Or how about the West Virginia business owner who told reporters he was too tired for a news conference after his company leaked a coal-cleaning agent into the Elk River in Charleston that resulted in a tap-water ban for 300,000 people for up to 10 days?
The virtues of a victim-centered response to crisis situations should be clear and obvious. The continued existence of companies and organizations requires the public’s approval. In many ways, a crisis serves as the renewal period on that unofficial license. Executives who put their own needs first in a crisis run the risk of losing their jobs and their company’s authorization to stay in business.