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In this short video, BlueChip's Founder Carden Calder explains pre-empting as a crucial strategy for crisis management, why it's not acknowledged as an important phase by academics and how to use it to avoid, prevent and mitigate a crisis.



Carden Calder: If you’re familiar with Crisis Management theory, you’ve probably been taught at least four phases of crisis management and they usually go something like this; Prevent, Prepare, Manage and Recover.

Some models have more phases - they might put early warning or response in the beginning or risk assessment, but I think the big thing all of those models miss is actually the most significant opportunity to avoid a crisis altogether or to make sure that it’s a small issue, not a PR disaster. That phase is what I’d call pre-empting the crisis.

Why is that phase not spotted and why is it not talked about more when to me it is the obvious and most effective crisis avoidance strategy and crisis management strategy?

Well, I think there are probably at least three reasons that people don’t think about it and the academics haven’t looked at it. One of the reasons is that using pre-empting as a strategy and as a crisis management tool or an avoidance approach requires time. It requires a longer duration type of thinking than PR people and probably most executive teams have and it requires a lot of experience. So you have to have seen a lot of crises to understand and really believe that pre-empting them is the most effective strategy and you also need a lot of time in order to use that strategy. If you give yourself more time, if you shift out the timeline – what I call – pulling out the right-hand axis on duration then actually, you’re much more likely to be able to use timing as part of a pre-emptive strategy and to be able to achieve much greater outcomes.

The other reason I think that people don’t use pre-empting as a strategy is that it requires strategic thinking beyond the issue in front of you. It requires getting back up several levels – getting in the helicopter and getting off the ground - to look at the whole issue and to think more strategically and more broadly and more globally about the issue, the context it’s in and all of the levers and stakeholders that you’re dealing with.

So my three reasons I think it’s not used are partly that people often either don’t use or don’t think that they’ve got duration - enough time. I think often they haven’t had enough crisis experience to understand the value of pre-empting rather than managing, preventing or preparing. I think often we don’t think strategically enough because we just don’t give ourselves the opportunity to get in the helicopter and look down at the whole situation.  

So, how do you use pre-empting as a crisis management strategy? Well, it’s pretty simple. You look beyond today’s issues; you look to the black swan type events, you think about the 1 in 100s scenarios, you look at outlier stakeholders or what I call “out of ring stakeholders” and you extend your planning and the duration of your thinking, long enough to give yourself the opportunity to avoid the crisis altogether.

So that is our theme for today. It’s about using duration and using pre-empting as a way of avoiding or preparing for or for mitigating a crisis.

If you’d like to discuss adjusting your communication strategy for the current times, please call us or fill out our contact form here.

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