Have you ever wondered why some people are always worrying about the next step down the road and others just wait for the problem to happen before dealing with a big mess?
This was the source of a discussion I recently had with a friend who, like me, honed his skills in politics but has taken those skills to external affairs in the hallowed halls of higher education. Turns out there is a lot to compare when it comes to hair-on-fire politics and academia. The conversation quickly turned to social risk.
As baby politicos, you are taught to see around corners. To evaluate every angle and then play it out two steps ahead. It becomes second nature. Some (like my 16 year old step-daughter) would say it turns into paranoia.
But it served us well, and the people we work for well. That is, if they listen.
Our conversation got me thinking — preparing and mitigating social risk should be a no brainer. Since it can hit anyone at any time, you definitely don’t want to be caught off guard.
But then I asked myself, why don’t companies prepare in the same way?
First, there’s Ostrich Syndrome.
“If I just ignore it, it won’t happen.” Or worse, “we can just deal with it, when it happens.” The short answer is – wrong.
More people are technically connected than ever before in human history. They can communicate their thoughts and feelings instantly. Messages and movements spread faster than ever before. If your key constituents trend younger, this should be a much bigger consideration in your crisis planning.
The second is Ivory Tower.
“We are too important to have this hit us” or “our values are part of our company, we are untouchable.” Ask Ben and Jerry’s how well that worked out.
Another variation of this ailment, is that we are so connected to our community that we know exactly what they are thinking.” Again, still prepare.
There is conflicting public opinion on if the broader public wants companies to speak out or not. Regardless of the general public, there tends to be some very well organized, technically savvy groups who have made climate change, racial justice, gender equity, human rights abuses, and voting rights a high priority in certain circles. Are these issues your circles are addressing and concerned about?
If your constituency skews younger, you had better be ready. The 2020 Consumer Culture Report found that 83% of millennials want companies to align with their values, 76% want company leaders to speak out on social issues and 65% have boycotted a brand over a social issue position.
The third, but not the last, is simply Fear of the Unknown.
Our friend Chris Gidez sent along this thought after my speed blog “a fear of the unknown translates into fear to speak/act too hasty.” He is exactly right.
Here are the brass tacks about social risk: it moves too fast for you to gather all the information so you, the lawyers, the executives, and key players know where you stand before it lands on your doorstep.
Regardless of which bucket you fall into, the biggest danger is assuming someone else is looking down the road for you. If you fall into one of the groups that is often seen scrambling when the next crisis hits the papers, this is something you cannot ignore. At the very least, check-in and see who else is considering the best next steps for your team and company in any one of these situations.
We would love to hear what you find out when you ask around.
One more thing, when you are ready…
We love helping teams prepare rather than react to social crisis. Reach out and we can share how our approach makes sure you have everyone on the same page rather than calling in the experts and hoping you can figure it out real time.
Photo by Tom Pottiger on Unsplash