Damage control: cuando la Reputación requiere cirugía y no aspirinas

damage control(publicado también en el blog de Overalia) De los diferentes libros sobre gestión de la reputación disponibles, hay uno que te recomiendo especialmente por que tiene un enfoque bastante diferente a los títulos que hablan de reputación online. Se trata de “Damage control“, escrito por Eric Dezenhall y John Weber y editado por Portfolio.

No es un libro de reputación”online” sino de gestión de la reputación a secas (a muy secas además), y enfocado sobre todo en las situaciones de crisis de reputación. El título lo dice todo: el daño ya está hecho, hay que controlarlo. Si otros libros te sitúan en un escenario que podría ser el de un médico de cabecera que quiere prevenir que un resfriado acabe en pulmonía, y ya de paso, te quiere poner en forma, Dezenhall se parece más a un cirujano militar que en medio de la refriega y con las balas silbando alrededor ha de decidir por dónde y con qué amputa una pierna. Más o menos…

El libro está lleno de ejemplos y de casos reales. Se percibe la tensión en las reuniones que describe, ese clima tenso. Y el autor no se anda con chiquitas. Estas son, a mi entender, las ideas subyacentes en el libro. Y sólo lo interpreto, no necesariamente las defiendo, por que dependerán de cada caso:

  • Esto va de personas que se juegan el pan (por no decir otra cosa), no de empresas abstractas. Por lo tanto, los sentimientos determinan muchas veces las estrategias. Lo mismo aplica al público/clientes: lo que sienten tiene más fuerza (y condiciona) que lo que piensan.

A company in crisis is often no longer a company at all: It’s a collection of individuals, each of whom is looking for personal cover. Truth to be told, the company’s welfare was low on the priority list of the individuals in this room.

The Scylla and Charibdis of crisis management are blame and resentment, and all crises need to be evaluated against these deadly twins.

Many science –and technology- based industries wrongly assume that the public will evalutae a scare with an anlytical eye. But reason and crisis management rarely meet. Damage control is a slugfest of emotions.

The world doesn’t run on stretagies; ity runs on emotions-egos, biases, passions, dreams, jealousies, resentment, gut reactions. Most corporations under siege devote far too much attention to strategy and not enough on the key personalities.

In crisis situations, people do what they know, not necessarilty what’s right. What people know is tied very closely to who they are. Crises are traumatic, so while organization’s strategic objective may be problem solving, the individual’s imperative is comfort.

  • Es vital que las personas encargadas de la gestión de la reputación en una empresa tengan capacidad real de tomar decisiones, que a menudo, serán arriesgadas, impopulares y con pocas (o ninguna) garantías de éxito.

In time of crisis, the chief executive officer must be the chief crisis officer, or, if not de CEO, the buisiness unit chief who has the authority to make fundamental decisions.

The biggest threat is the instinctive corporate desire to do nothing when facing danger.

The main criterion for a strong leader in crisis situations is a capacity for making decisions. The cornerstone of good decision-making judgment is an appreciation of realistic options. Too many crisis teams are paralyzed by dream scenarios proposed to them by consultants. (…) Another feature of good leadershgip is the willingness to make decisions based upon incomplete information. In crises, organizations never feeel they have sufficient information. But marketplace doesn’t forgive inaction for any reason. Good leaders will take calculated risks with the understanding that there are no guarantees their decisions will be right.

  • El autor defiende que en ocasiones mantener una actitud defensiva o apaciguante ante una crítica no es más que un síntoma de debilidad que incentiva a que las críticas sean más feroces (y en el cao de los Estados Unidos, puede además incentivar las demandas legales). Hay que responder rápido, claro y contundente. No vas a convencer con buenas palabras a quien está decidido a hacerte daño.

Apologies are often positioned as a panacea in crisis management; however, once they actually happen, people are rarely impressed. “Too little, too late” is often the reaction.

A crisis well managed is a tale of redemption. Redemption should be anchored in truth, and the best vehicle for the truth is a heart defense – the original definition of apologia (not being sorry).

Never overestimate the public´s true interest in your issue or the intellectual energy they will commit to sifting though competing facts before making a judgment (…) they know what they know –which is quite a lot about their job, their profession, their family, their hobbies, etc. But don’t expect them to know much about your company, your products and your issues. For communicators this means if you can’t convince people in 30 seconds, you’re not going to.

Getting out first and characterizing the situation accurately (while avoiding liability risks) positions you as a credible, reliable player in whatever happens. If you don’t, expect the crisis critics in the press, the blogosphere, wall street and everywhere else to have a field day.

  • No siempre se puede solucionar el problema, y centrarse únicamente en esa posibilidad es una actitud naïf. Pero hay que acotarlo y minimizarlo tanto como se pueda:

Crisis management is about picking the best of your bad options. Sometimes”looking good” –getting a better image- is not a possibility. If public relations is about making things look good, crisisi managment us about making them less bad.

Identify what’s doable, not what’s ideal

  • Y una última cita a modo de resumen, ¿Qué tienen en común las empresas que superan una Crisis de Reputación?

Companies that survives crisis have in common:

  • They have strong leaders who have broad authority to make decisions.
  • They question conventional PR wisdom and do not worship the altar of feel-good gurus who espouse “reputation management” the canard that corporate redemption follows popularity.
  • They are flexible, changing course when the operating climate shifts (which it usually does).
  • They commit significant resources to the resolution of a crisis with absolutely no guarantee that theses resources will provide results.
  • They have a high threshold for pain, recognizing that things may get worse before they get better.
  • They think in terms of baby steps, not grandiouse gestures, which explains Rome’s success, after all.
  • They know themselves, and are honest about what kinds of actions their culture can –and cannot- sustain.
  • They believe that corporate defense is an exercise in moral authority, and that their critics are not necessarily virtous simply because they purport to be standing up for the “little guy”
  • They are lucky, often catching unexpected breaks delivered by God, Nature, Fortune os some other independent factor.

¿Qué opinas? ¿Es siempre imprescindible la línea zen de buscar el consenso y aplacar ánimos? ¿O a veces no queda otra que bajarse al barro a taponar hemorragias?

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