Everyone must have actionable plans in place to protect their people and those who visit their places of business.
— Patricia Alvaredo, Crisis Counselor, FH Miami
Leaving preparedness to any one department only ensures the company won’t be able to respond.
— Brian West, Crisis Counselor, FH Singapore
The global supply chain has gone quiet, but there will be another Rana Plaza event.
— Geoff Bilbrough, Crisis Counselor, FH Hong Kong
A major energy disaster could have a substantial impact on the industry’s ability to supply the world with energy.
— Katy Hancock, Crisis Counselor, FH Dallas
True Preparedness Means Identifying What Could Go Wrong and How You’ll Respond, Well in Advance
Successful crisis management is increasingly driven by three fundamental realities:
- News no longer breaks; it tweets. Today’s crisis news moves faster than ever, shortening the timeframe companies have to respond to little more than a few minutes.
- The expectations for visible leadership from top companies facing crisis situations are growing every day. To be successful at crisis management, well regarded companies must do more, and do it faster, than ever before.
- Authentic engagement is critical. As companies respond to crises, they must continue to meet the stakeholder expectations they’ve set.
True preparedness is the key, choreographing the corporate response in advance to ensure speed and organization in the face of disaster.
Companies that handle crises and incidents well take the time to anticipate the types of threats they face each year and use proven strategies to prepare. To provide a look at what to anticipate in the year ahead, we asked members of the FleishmanHillard crisis team to provide some preparedness priorities companies should think about. Here are some of their predictions for 2015:
The growing Ebola tragedy in West Africa – only the most recent of the pandemics in 2014 – has started to show its first implications for multinational companies, and it will only get worse in 2015. As the Ebola threat grows, any company that maintains physical locations needs to think about how to deal with the potential for infections. This will be especially true for companies in the travel and tourism industries, as well as any business whose employees travel frequently. Companies will need to consider how they maintain business continuity if employees can’t come to work. They should adopt policies about paying staff to stay home, about how to maintain contact with health authorities, and about providing refunds to customers or clients whose reservations for products and services must be cancelled. In addition, multinational companies should consider how they would respond to situations in developing nations that have poorer healthcare and weaker government health departments.
Privacy & Data security
Data security news continued to grow exponentially in 2014 and the number of breaches reported increased from 2013. Data breaches will continue to be big news in 2015, with criminal cyber syndicates finding new and more dangerous ways to steal and merchandize private information. Some possible scenarios for 2015:
- Boards of directors will increasingly be held accountable for failures in data security both by shareholders and regulators around the world.
- Global companies face a growing and increasingly disparate set of national and even local privacy regimes related to the capture, retention and use of personal information. Whether or not personal data is compromised, this poses a threat of legal action, consumer backlash and disruption of an increasingly common business model.
- Cloud applications, mobile devices, wearable tech and mobile payment capabilities will offer hackers new opportunities to exploit, with potentially devastating impact for consumers.
- Medical devices such as MRIs, pain pumps and EKGs become the most vulnerable vector into healthcare IT networks, allowing criminal access to machine controls and patient information, and hospitals will be quick to blame device makers after a breach.
- Asia will become more of an epicenter for data breaches in 2015.
- “Anonymous” may return to prominence, which could involve the use of new tactics.
Preparing for these threats means developing strategies to ensure companies can communicate – without compromising liability – even during the weeks it may take for forensics teams to determine the nature and scope of a breach. Legal, Communications, Security, Information Technology and Business Continuity must work in harmony to produce an effective response.
Terrorism will be a growing risk in 2015, especially with the escalation of conflicts in the Middle East. Next year and in the years beyond, the biggest threats will come not from massive, organized plots, but from individuals who perpetrate smaller but deadly and destructive attacks. These kinds of acts could shift to focus on multinational companies and their public facilities around the world.
In April 2013, the world was rocked by the tragedy of Rana Plaza, in which more than 1,100 people lost their lives, and top companies were roundly criticized for their lack of oversight regarding the supply chains used to manufacture the products they sell. Effective supply chain management will once again be an area of focus in 2015.
Companies manufacturing in Asia Pacific will continue to face scrutiny of their supply chain from a diverse set of stakeholders including their direct customers, regulators, and NGOs. Consumers and NGOs have drawn new lines in the sand as to what’s acceptable and what’s not, which has created a new set of rules and associated issues. Big brands will need to go beyond the letter of the law and meet demands for increased traceability throughout their supply chains, and they will need forensic knowledge of where and how products are made, as well as the ingredients used in them.
Activism on the Rise
Environmental activists will step up their campaigns against major local infrastructure projects in 2015. Terminal developments, dams and energy pipelines will be targets around the world, including in the United States. In some cases, these local campaigns against companies will be conducted with local government support.
Activists will also be emboldened when targeting food and beverage companies regarding the ingredients and nutrients in their products, from added sugars to food additives to GMOs. This is particularly true for companies that make products for children or products touting nutritional benefits.
Pricing and Access Issues
Whether it’s water scarcity, the disparate prices of life-sustaining drugs or the costs of commodity food products, many audiences increasingly believe that companies have an obligation ensure availability and to charge prices consumers can afford for such critical products. In the US and Europe, pharmaceutical manufacturers will continue to face scrutiny over the prices of the newest generation of pharmaceuticals, especially in oncology. In parts of the developing world where water is scarce, multinationals could face both local and international activists if too much water is used by new manufacturing plants or other local operations. And as certain foods become more expensive around the world, some believe companies have an obligation to maintain affordable consumer prices even though they might lose money on sales.
The FH crisis team now includes more than 150 counselors around the world who have been accredited to use the firm’s proprietary A.R.C.™ (Assess, Resolve, Control) crisis methodology. Many of these certified counselors contributed to this piece, including Patricia Alvaredo, Giaconda Beekman, Geoff Bilbrough, Elizabeth Borrelli, Rachel Catanach, Steff Childs, Dario Cutin, Alycia Dolan, James Dunny, Paul Dusseault, David Hakensen, Katy Hancock, Pete Hillan, Sam Huxley, Elisha McCallum, Chris Nelson, Rory O’Connor, Dave Pacholczyk, Cosette Romero, Emily Schaefer, Richard Sorian, Ed Stewart, Laura Tyson, Brian West and Nick Williams.