Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Royal mess ... and no, this is not about that family in London ...

My good friend Gerald Baron has already chimed in on the brouhaha around the Royal Bank in recent days. His post talks about sending the right person with the right messages to do crisis communications. It's a good read as always.

For me, there are five critical components to effective crisis communications planning ... the 5 Ps:

  1. Procedures (easy to use, flexible, allow for quick action)
  2. People (how they are trained, skills needed, roster)
  3. Preparation (key messages ahead of time = message mapping)
  4. Practice (exercises, drills, full or table top)
  5. Platform (the tech: emergency mgmt/BCP software + social networks)
Training is the key element of the second P ... the People part; and, as happens too often, it's the forgotten part. So now, imagine you're dealing with a Big Headline reading something like this: Canadian Bank (one that makes billions in profit) Fires Canadian Staff And Replaces Them With Foreign Workers.

Yep, that's the mess in which the Royal Bank of Canada finds itself in. No matter what the actual technicalities of "outsourcing" jobs are, the RBC is scrambling to express its position clearly. Things didn't start well:

As my friend Gerald Baron said is his piece, I'm sure that Ms Hirji is supremely competent in her job running HR for the bank. But was she really the best spokesperson to explain RBC's practices ... which are fairly common in large corporations? 

Being a senior corporate executive or elected official is NOT the same as being a proficient communicator ... especially in a crisis. Training to learn how to communicate clearly when things go wrong or your reputation is at risk, is of the ultimate importance.

The above video is an illustration of what NOT to do:
  • appear jittery to the point of appearing as uncaring 
  • avoid the issue and obfuscate
  • expand on technicalities ... use jargon
  • don't focus about the most crucial factor: the people involved.
To be honest, her big boss ... Gord Nixon didn't fare much better in a later interview with the CBC:

Yes, we understand that it's a common practice for big businesses to outsource IT work to firms from abroad but the very first words out of his mouth should have been about the Canadian workers impacted. About what RBC is doing FOR them and I'm sure they are doing good stuff. 

Again some key points. Your messaging should:
  • emphasize your human values/face ... your compassion 
  • point to a tradition of excellence, best practices, worker/community-centered approach to conducting business
  • stress the huge benefits brought by your presence in many communities.
Perhaps this will serve to remind many leaders that leadership is also about clear and compassionate communications in a crisis or emergency. It's something that's occasionally beyond the most successful among us who are use to ferocious competition to get to the top of their field ... 

Crisis communications training builds on our shared human traits of compassion, empathy and not just on competence alone. 

1 comment:

  1. Patrice, great column. What's astonishing about this is that the story boils down to 27 people. That's the number of RBC employees who (at the time of this interview) did not have other jobs or chose to retire. If they focused first on those 27 people, they would have had an easier time of it. Just because something is common, doesn't mean that it's acceptable.