Escaping a crisis isn’t enough, reputation resilience requires transformation

September 19, 2019

Critical takeaways

  • Corporate crises disrupt plans and strategies and divert attention away from what companies want to do. 
  • Disruption can be a negative, destructive force, but it also provides an opportunity to transform and improve an organization.
  • Surviving the crisis is crucial, but real success and resilience comes from using the crisis to drive positive transformation of the firm. 

Disrupting disruption

One of the most crucial roles that Kith plays in a crisis is disrupting the hold that the situation has on an organization and helping it return to a state of normality. Or said another way – disrupt the disruption. 

When you’re in the grip of a crisis, there’s significant fear and confusion about what to do next, uncertainty about who is at fault and the facts of the situation are unclear. 

We disrupt the crisis by encouraging those affected to address pertinent questions and to take immediate, tactical actions to help them overcome the inertia and start to regain control. This disruption allows them to move out of the crosshairs, to chart a course out of the crisis and return to normality.

I’m a firm believer in the value of rapid, disruptive intervention to help pull a company out of the downward spiral of a crisis and on to recovery. However, I’ve noticed that great companies don’t just stop with crisis disruption. 

Instead of just surviving a crisis, they go on to thrive.

Moving from surviving to thriving

If you find yourself in the grip of a crisis, you need to reduce the period of disruption as much as possible and the sooner you act, the sooner you move from a reactive stance to a proactive one. In short, speed is critical. 

However, once you have regained the initiative, you face a choice. Is merely shortening the duration of the crisis and surviving enough, or should the goal be to turn the situation into an opportunity for positive transformation? 

Going back to the status quo as quickly as possible is shortsighted. Not only is the organization missing the opportunity to learn, but it has also missed the chance to transform into a reputation resilient organization. 

When I see a company ‘end’ a crisis and rush to get back to normal, I’m filled with dread because crises aren’t single, isolated events. Instead, these occur because of systemic flaws. Without the learning and transformation needed to address these fundamental flaws, the seeds of the next crisis remain. This desire to end the crisis and simply get back to “normal” is understandable, but an infinite, edgeless mindset will help you turn disruption into a positive force. This will help you move from merely surviving to thriving in the aftermath of a crisis.

Create your own disruption

However, you don’t need to wait for a crisis to hit your organization to start transforming it. 

Instead, you can use deliberate, planned disruption awareness to help transform your organization to make it better.

I’m not suggesting the wholesale destruction of what’s already in place: that would cause a crisis by itself. 

Instead, this could be as simple as thinking about similar firms undergoing change and consider what you would do if that were you. Alternatively, ask yourselves why your business isn’t emulating the successful firms in your sector. Sometimes the most significant disruption comes from questioning well-worn traditions that are usually explained as “that’s just how it’s always been done.” 

That kind of mentality is crying out to be disrupted. Your choice is to either disrupt it on your own terms or wait for someone else to force change upon you.

This kind of self-imposed disruption and transformation is something we are doing more and more of at Kith.   

Sometimes it’s a workshop where we are asking the questions that challenge the orthodoxy and disrupt the status quo. At other times, we use our CReD diagnostic tool which helps clients address systemic flaws well in advance of any crisis. For some, it’s a single element that needs attention whereas other organizations find that each of the seven key areas requires some action. 

Whatever the case, we can help disrupt the organization to prompt growth, transformation and, eventually, find resilience. And we can do this without having to wait for a crisis to hit.

Interestingly, this move to prevention rather than cure isn’t a matter of Kith changing focus. Instead, we are being approached by mature, thoughtful organizations that want to become truly reputationally resilient and they are adopting this approach.

There is still is a need for traditional crisis response. Crises can still happen to those who prepare well so crisis response remains a mainstay of what we do. However, building resilience and managing reputational risks farther out is something we anticipate doing a lot more of.

Resilience starts with disruption

Unchecked disruption is very damaging. It takes organizations off their planned path and prevents them from doing what they want to do on a day-to-day basis. Most damaging of all is disruption where external factors change things so fundamentally that your business is no longer relevant: disruption becomes destruction.

However, when it’s a managed activity, disruption can become a force for good that allows you to transform your organization. 

So if you find yourself in crisis, refuse to be a passive observer. Instead, disrupt the crisis by taking deliberate, decisive action to regain control and then use the disruption to transform your organization on your terms.

Better still is to preempt external disruption and drive your own transformation. This allows you to make the changes you want and need to address systemic flaws that create the foundation for future crises.

Hard though it is to believe, the path towards reputational resilience and stability starts with disruption. You just need to decide if you want it to be on your terms or someone else’s. Whatever the case, Kith will be by your side.


Filed under: Blog


Bill is a reputation management, crisis communications and professional development expert, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal Risk & Compliance panelist, and best-selling author of Critical Moments: The New Mindset of Reputation Management. He has more than 25 years of global experience managing high-stakes crises, issues management, and media relations challenges for both Fortune 500 companies and winning global political campaigns.