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Clarity is Critical When Preparing for Social Risks

January 3, 2022

Happy New Year! 

2022 is here! By now, the confetti is swept up and champagne glasses cleaned or, if you were like me, your PJs have been put away, and you’ve awoken from a long winter’s nap. Either way, 2021 has been wrung out, and a new year has begun. A fresh start.

Except it’s still looking a lot like last year.

With one added twist – 2022 has the added excitement of Congressional elections, which are proving to be just as tumultuous as a Presidential election year. People are running for office from the local school board to the United States Senate across the country, and the issues discussed on the campaign trail will add new fuel to already heated debates on social issues. 

We need not look any further than the ongoing debate around the facts and response to COVID. An issue that leaders like you are debating from logistical and office policy will be amplified by political campaigns and spill into the living rooms of your workforce, which will, in turn, impact your decision-making. 

Social Risks Will Continue to Dominate in 2022

This issue, and many others faced by major corporations in the last few years, are social risks which we define as: “The exposure to adverse consequences stemming from population-based activities and negative public perception.”

Real-world examples like Home DepotDelta, or Coca-Cola being embroiled in the debate over a voting bill in Georgia or several universities facing protests over stocking Sabra hummus in their cafeteria were a surprise to those swept up in them. At the other end of the spectrum are companies like Hobby Lobby and Patagonia that have made their corporate values a critical part of their public image. 

Finding yourself in these kinds of challenging situations isn’t a foregone conclusion: you can easily take steps beforehand to anticipate and prepare for what might come your way.

Unlike more traditional or operational risks, Social Risk is characterized by the highly negative tone of the conversation, its strong political undertones, and its speed. In the face of these characteristics, crisis preparation is critical: otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed by a Social Risk before you’re aware of what is happening.

Clarity is Critical

Our years of experience in crises have revealed a few critical ingredients to better crisis preparation – one is clarity. Seeing clearly what could land on your doorstep will help tremendously in preparing for any social upheaval that will jostle your trajectory.  

Critical factors in finding clarity:

  • Understanding who you are. This dives a little deeper into knowing what your organization, employees, board members, and shareholders want and need from the company. Do they want engagement in political and social issues? Do they want to take a stand on particular issues and avoid others? Do they want to promote mental wellness but not get involved in any other aspect of the issue? Knowing the organization’s will as a collective and reflecting this in a clear statement of your values will give you a guiding light in handling social risk. 
  • Figuring out who matters most to you. If you have ten key customers, and they are all that matters to you, you better know what matters to them. If your employees are the backbone of your business, what are their top priorities? Knowing who is most important to you and what is most important to them will help you make decisive and quick decisions in the face of a social movement. 
  • Determining what is going to knock you off course. If you understand who you are as a business and who matters to your business, figuring out which issue, which social risk, will cause a crisis is more manageable. You will be able to see the issues that will matter to your stakeholders and how they align with you. This will enable you to respond quickly and effectively. 

As we charge into 2022, we will continue to share insights into key factors of crisis preparedness, but in the meantime, if you want to avoid being run over, here is a quick start guide on how to prepare for the social issues coming your way.


Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

Filed under: Crisis Leadership

Stephanie Craig

Stephanie Craig has built her reputation as a crisis expert by guiding some of the world’s most prominent people and organizations through their most trying moments. Before Kith, Stephanie founded the Apeiron Strategy Group where she counted former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and the mayor of the nation’s 10th largest city as clients.