Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Thinking Ahead 

In a crisis, paranoia is good. Anything bad that could happen will. In crises, things go wrong in ways one would never expect.

That is why it is good to think about what might go bad and how to maintain control if it does. The problem is so many things could go wrong that it is a useless to forecast everything. Risk managers find obvious dangers and develop ways to prevent them. PR managers don't have the luxury of spending days thinking about failure. We work on the fly.

That is why I was impressed with a client who is dealing with a problem. I was going to send her an options memo related to the crisis when she called, and I discussed it on the phone with her. She had thought of everything I was going to write plus a few more things I had not. I didn't send the memo. I figured the things I had not brought up she had thought of too. It is useless to give advice to someone who knows what to do.

Still, thinking of contingencies and controlling them are different animals. Some risks cannot be controlled. If they happen, one deals with them. For example, one knows employees could spill company secrets in public. We trust employees not to do that, but we know they can, and we know we cannot prevent them. The way to minimize that risk is not to have secrets that can embarrass a company to the point of extinction. Get rid of dirty laundry at once because it will show sooner or later. No one can keep secrets with the Internet.

I am now thinking of contingencies for this crisis for two months out. I'll bet my client is at three months out.


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