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The 7 Rs For Recovering From A Crisis
From:
Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert
Washington, DC
Friday, December 3, 2021

 

Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Author Of Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey)

Some crisis situations are so damaging for companies and organizations that they decide the most effective, efficient and strategic way to recover is to undergo an extreme makeover. To that end, they will often use one or more tactics from what I call the 7 Rs For Recovering From A Crisis: Renounce, Reinvent, Restructure, Rebuild, Rename, Rebrand and Reset.

Advocacy group Time's Up will apparently use several of those Rs as it tries to recover from their involvement in a recent crisis involving former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the allegations of sexual harassment that were made against him by several women.

Renounce, Rebuild and Reset

The Associated Press summarized Time's Up's situation this way: "Confusion over purpose and mission. Lack of focus on long-term goals. Ineffective communication internally and externally. Lack of accountability for top officials, especially the CEO. Too politically partisan, and too aligned with Hollywood.

"These are just some of the issues raised in a report commissioned by Time's Up and released Friday— in the name of transparency—as the advocacy group pledged a 'major reset' including the termination of most of the staff. It comes three months after a damaging scandal forced the departure of chief executive Tina Tchen over revelations that the group's leaders advised former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration after he was first accused of sexual harassment last year."

Actress and activist Ashley Judd, a Time's Up board member, told the AP that, "We're going down to the studs. We're going to rebuild and reset and come back in a way that honors our mandate, incorporates the voices of our critics, learns from our findings … and holds ourselves accountable but also lives up to our potential."

Here's how other companies and organizations have used the rest of the "7 Rs For Recovering From A Crisis."

Reinvent and Restructure

Before Covid, museumhack.com, a museum tour company, conducted more than 50 tours a week, generated about $2.8 million in annual revenue and had more than 30 employees.

When Covid shut down all museums, the company's revenue plummeted to zero within three days. In response to their economic crisis, the company temporarily laid-off some staff, ended software subscriptions and brainstormed potential new business models. They quickly changed their name to teambuilding.org and rebranded itself as conducting virtual team-building events.

Why?

Michael Alexis, CEO of teambuilding.org, recalled that, "... we were trying to match our skill sets with services that might be in demand during lockdown and stay at home orders.... we used trends.google.com, which is a free tool that gives you relative data on search volume of specific keywords on Google.

"We saw that interest in 'virtual team building' was spiking with so many people starting to work remotely, and decided to commit since we had some experience doing in-person team building at the museum," he said.

According to Alexis, "We've substantially exceeded our previous numbers, and now have 200+ employees." Clients for their new services include companies like Apple, Amazon and Google.

Rebrand And Rename

Facebook

In October, CNN reported that, "Facebook is changing its company name as it shifts its focus to the 'metaverse' and confronts wide-ranging scrutiny of the real-world harms from its various platforms after a whistleblower leaked hundreds of internal documents.

 

"A rebranding could be part of an effort to overhaul Facebook's reputation and turn the page following a series of PR nightmares, including misinformation on its platforms, content moderation failures and revelations about the negative effect its products have on some users' mental health."

Weight Watchers

In an effort to transform the weight-loss company into a wellness organization, in 2018 Weight Watchers changed their name to WW.

According to the New York Times, the rebranding and renaming "… came at a time when the body-positivity movement was gaining steam, and the company faced increased competition from companies focused on self-care and nutrition."

Aunt Jemima

Aunt Jemima, which had been criticized for years because of its name and likeness were associated with racist imagery, changed their name to Pearl Milling Company which had created the pancake mix. The New York Times noted that, "The change was initiated last year, after the killing of George Floyd set off protests over racial injustice and a nationwide reckoning over symbols of the Old South and their meaning."

Advice For Business Leaders

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is a senior associate dean and professor of management practice at the Yale School of Management, where he is president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute. He is the author of Firing Back: How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters (Harvard Business School Press).

Based on Time's Up's crisis, he had the following recommendations for corporate executives.

Fight, Not flight. Acknowledge the problem.

Too often enterprises and organizations try to sweep it under the carpet, or hide in a cave, thinking no one will notice. They are often misadvised by obsolete communications experts—"take your lumps" or "this will blow over" or "this too shall pass" or "this is a one day story."

Don't Be An Island

Build on alliances – especially highly credible, more distant relationships. Family and personal friends are very helpful for emotional support, but peers – who do not compete with you – understand your situation and provide priceless endorsements as well as access to expanded networks for new pathways.

Don't vacillate over your comeback strategy between exoneration or contrition.

You can't straddle and try to do both or you fall flat on your face. If you know of the wrongdoing, admit, apologize for it, correct it and atone for it with genuine contrition. If you insist you are innocent, scream it from the mountaintops going for exoneration – presenting explanations and evidence.

Reprove Your Heroic Competence

Even if people believe you have learned from your setback or believe you are innocent and wrongly accused, you can be avoided as damaged goods with constituents thinking you've lost your balance.

Discover a New Heroic Mission

Rather than be caught in a cycle of endless, retrospective apologizing and finger-pointing, Time's Up is not defining themselves by their past. Now battle-tested, a crisis like this can make them stronger, as adversity is a critical aspect of punctuating heroic character development—but most don't make it through those derailments.

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Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare For and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). He is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.

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