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4 Takeaways from the First PwC Global Crisis Survey

The first-ever PwC’s Global Crisis Survey was released this year with insights into over 4,000 crises that occurred at 2,000 companies.

The survey comes at an ideal time as crisis management conversations abound and techniques for mitigation evolve. The insights can give companies a greater understanding of how crisis proliferates, advances, and what other companies have faced when it hit them.

Here are four thought-provoking takeaways from the survey that may cause you to look at crisis management differently.

1. No one is immune

You’ve probably heard this before by someone trying to sell you something, but the PwC survey evidenced the saying’s validity. The average number of crises experienced by corporate leaders was 3 with 69% experiencing at least one event in the last five years. Of the 2,000 companies surveyed across 43 countries, there were 4,515 crises. This is made more concerning after reading PwC’s definition of “crises” for the survey: a major disruption to multiple functions of the enterprise – and one with the potential to significantly harm your reputation.

2. The types of crises remain diverse

Crises come in many shapes and sizes. PwC sorted 19 triggers into 7 broad categories for their survey. The categories included some you hear about often and some you may not be considering for your company:

  • Operational – ops failure, competitive/marketplace disruption, supply chain, product failure, product integrity
  • Technological – technology failure, cyber-crime
  • Humanitarian – natural disaster, geopolitical disruption, humanitarian, terrorism
  • Financial – financial/liquidity, shareholder activism
  • Legal – legal/regulatory, ethical misconduct
  • Human capital – leadership transition, workplace violence
  • Reputational – leadership misconduct, viral social media

53% of respondents identified operational crises such as supply chain concerns, ops failures, competitive disruption and product failures as ones they had encountered. The next highest were technological, humanitarian, and financial. Of the 19 triggers listed by PwC, every single one had occurred within the respondent group.

3. Disruptive cases are not always the ones you expect.

The media tends to sensationalize certain crises more than other such as huge data leaks by major companies or ethical misconduct. Despite this, respondents were more concerned about mitigating or managing crises for these operational concerns than they were about other, more prolific crises such as technology failure and financial/liquidity crises. The survey thus determined that companies are predisposed to create policies and procedures to combat crises they are familiar with (which they will gain from those that are newsworthy) which creates a blind spot in their risk plans.

4. Crises management responsibilities aren’t so straightforward.

There is no standard for who is responsible for what role within a crisis. PwC’s study suggests that the C-suite claims more responsibility compared to non-C-suite roles for preparedness, response, and communication. This highlights the importance of crisis management as a function of the business. The study says, “the “ownership map” clearly highlights the overlapping of roles and responsibilities, which should cause some concern given the importance of efficient coordination, communication, and decisions in crisis”.

Crisis management is anything but straightforward, and PwC’s report indicates that there are still many questions for companies trying to understand ways to handle crisis. It is clear from the report that crises will continue to evolve and become more complex. The attention to crises isn’t going anywhere either. Social media remains a powerful tool for alerting the public to issues and calling out companies who fail to report or communicate issues in a timely manner. Being able to manage crisis, communicate quickly and effectively, and position your company to brace for the effects is no longer an option—it is a competitive advantage.

For more information on communication during a crisis event, contact us today.

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