Alethea had the pleasure of attending and speaking at PRWeek’s inaugural Crisis Comms conference on April 12, 2023 alongside public relations and communications leaders and executives across all industries. The goal? Learn from experts on how to better protect against crisis events, conceptualize business risk, and form comprehensive risk management strategies. No one knows better than our fellow attendees that while it takes a lifetime to build a reputation, it takes only a few seconds to lose it. While the conference produced many great lessons, one theme remained constant throughout: communications teams are the new front line risk managers.
Communications plays a major role in helping to build, protect, and manage risk and reputation, including effectively preparing for and managing crisis situations. Alethea’s Head of Analysis, Michael Robinson, highlighted the elevated role of communications teams during his panel on confronting crisis on a global scale, especially how to navigate different cultures, languages, laws, geopolitical issues, and other risks to be mindful of overseas. Specifically, Michael talked about how to navigate risks related to China in order to avoid becoming a target of Chinese disinformation – a top of mind issue for C-suite leaders across all industries. Communications leaders must understand how their policies, messaging campaigns, or public statements may be perceived by the Chinese Communist Party and make tradeoffs between a commitment to their global corporate values and angering Beijing. The panel addressed questions like: what happens when businesses are targeted by a state-backed disinformation campaign, or need to quickly withdraw from a country due to human rights abuses or war? What types of assets – brand and reputation, executives, customer base, supply chains – are vulnerable? False narratives and damaging content spreads like wildfire, especially in a crisis environment, and therefore communications teams must act as the first line of defense against weaponized information.
Other panels addressed issues like how to know when and when not to make a public comment regarding an event or situation impacting your businesses – a concern we often hear from our customers. In some cases, no response is the best response. But how do you convince senior leaders of that, especially in a time-sensitive, high-pressure environment? Telling truth from fiction is getting harder and harder and that makes it more difficult to know whether something is or isn’t a crisis. Knowing where to focus time, energy, and resources is the key challenge. The more insights and information accessible to communications teams the better because they guide response actions like putting out authoritative counter information. The panelists did a great job using their answers and experiences to highlight the importance of an evolving crisis management strategy, as threats continue to manifest themselves in different ways.
Alethea was thrilled to be part of what was an extremely informative and enjoyable inaugural Crisis Comms conference. The environment really highlighted the collaborative nature of the public relations and communications industry, especially as it relates to topics like risk and crisis management. The atmosphere was all about learning and we had countless conversations with other attendees where we shared stories, lessons learned, tips and tricks, and brainstormed ideas for how to build resilience against disinformation and misinformation. The event served as a reminder that although communications professionals face dynamic and evolving challenges, the energy and ingenuity of those working to solve those challenges remains as strong as ever.
To view more information about Michael's panel, click here. To read more of Alethea's blogs, including recaps from other conferences and events as well as analysis of key industry topics, click here. Finally, don't forget to subscribe to our blog to be notified when we release new content.