Why employee engagement can help CEOs survive a crisis
Date: 16 July 2012 13:07
Companies often prepare for things to go wrong. They have a well-drilled crisis plan in place and lay the foundation stones by nurturing strong media relations with journalists who are friends in peace time, but enemies when the conflict begins.
In my experience they so often forget to prime one of the key weapons in their arsenal – their own workforce.
Internal PR is as important as engaging with stakeholders outside the company because in times of conflict they will become your most authentic ambassadors. It is no point trying to recruit them afterwards as education secretary Michael Gove has been doing. He has been asking headmasters to become advocates for his education changes – but because the recruitment has come late it is interpreted as PR spin.
Chief executives must take the staff with them when bringing a new strategy to a company. So many of them don't – they see communication with the troops as someone else's mission, it simply isn't exciting enough for them.
I have seen so many companies unravel because the boss has a conviction to a certain strategy without getting his team signed up to it. When a media storm blows up they suddenly find leaks, whistleblowers and former staff joining a queue to the media door.
Suggestion boxes, employee engagement groups, intranet comms and most importantly personal contact are the glue that can help bind the staff to the CEO's philosophy because they feel part of the big picture.
One mogul I worked with insisted on queuing up for lunch in the staff canteen when he was in town and inviting executives and shop floor workers alike to join him for lunch. He then acted on their views and the word on the street was the boss was one of us.
It sustained him through the difficult times when no member of staff had a bad word to say about him.
Phil Hall was editor of the News of the World and is chairman of PHA Media. Phil writes a regular column for PRmoment.com.