The impact of war is never contained to its fighting borders. The war transpiring between Russia and Ukraine presents a range of risks, consequences, and fallout that threaten organizations around the world. Understanding the different layers and levels of potential impact and being in the position to be a step ahead, is not just important for your brand’s resilience, but it also presents opportunity.
It’s not just about being able to survive the surprise of being affected by the Ukraine conflict, it’s about being able to continue to operate in this new environment and to create opportunities to learn, grow, and hopefully thrive.
A Crisis Ready organization is equipped with the mindset, skills, and capabilities to identify, anticipate, assess, and effectively respond to impactful situations no matter what the circumstances. As such, we are taking this opportunity to present some considerations to support you in your Crisis Ready efforts through this highly volatile moment in history.
Remember: You cannot be Crisis Ready in a vacuum. The following considerations, along with all other relevant and particular considerations to your organization, should be brought to your team as a collaborative effort to remain vigilant and to be ready to mitigate, de-escalate, and respond to any situation that may materialize in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Note to Communication Consultants: You play a vital role in your clients’ Crisis Readiness and, thus, their response to this unfolding crisis—along with any other issue or crisis they may experience. If you’d like to be kept updated on new developments and points of consideration to bring to your clients, click here to learn more about our Crisis Ready Membership for Consultants which is dedicated to supporting you and the important work you do.
There has been a lot of coverage on the increased risk of cybersecurity threats as a consequence of the Russia-Ukraine war. Following are some of the considerations and actions that should be transpiring within your organization.
Open your internal lines of communication.
Your IT / InfoSec team should already be taking action and increasing their vigilance. Make sure they are supported and ensure open lines of communication between them and the other departments and functions within your organization.
Review policies and practice critical thought.
Take the opportunity to review your cybersecurity policies and procedures, and to conduct some tabletop exercises with your leadership, operations, and communications teams. These exercises always reveal unanswered questions. Make sure the team consults with the right internal and external experts to answer any open-ended questions that come out of these exercises. Don’t leave them unaddressed or unanswered.
Increase internal awareness.
Remind, train, and empower all team members across the organization to be vigilant—and don’t assume that they know what it actually means to be vigilant. Teach and/or remind them what to look out for and what to do if they encounter anything that feels suspicious, or if they simply feel uncertain and want guidance.
Review your continuity programs.
What are your business continuity programs in the event that your systems or your data are compromised, whether the breach is internal or of a third-party? How could such a compromise impact your organization’s operations, its stakeholders, and/or its reputation?
Prompt third-party conversations to support collaborative Crisis Ready initiatives.
If your organization is Crisis Ready against a cybersecurity threat, then you know what data and systems are your most sensitive and protected. Have a conversation with any third-party organizations that have access to this data or to these systems. Their vulnerability is your vulnerability, so work together to strengthen both of your protection.
Business Continuity Considerations
From supply chain impact (goods, services, fuel, etc.) to economic impact, what are the different ways in which your operations may be affected over the coming days, weeks, and months, depending on the different ways in which the war and global response may unfold?
Similar to the considerations around cybersecurity, make sure all lines of communication are open and that all potential impacts are being considered, assessed, and readied against to the most extent possible. Review your business continuity and crisis management programs and have clear response strategies defined for your most likely, high-impact scenarios.
Note: If you’d like to learn more about your most likely, high-impact scenarios, a.k.a. your “high risk scenarios”, read Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, by Melissa Agnes.
Communication is essential. In times of high uncertainty, people need strong leaders and strong leaders communicate openly, effectively, and consistently. There are so many ways in which the coming days, weeks, and months can unfold and at this moment in time, nobody has all the answers. These unknowns can be scary and can quickly lead to confusion, overwhelm, stress, anxiety, fear, and panic, which can lead to consequential impact on everything from internal company morale and productivity, straight through to external factors such as civil unrest and impact on the financial markets.
People—your employees, your clients, your board(s), your community, and countless others—are and will continue to seek guidance, reassurance, comfort, direction, and compassion from leaders they trust. This presents an opportunity for you to rise as that leader. In doing so, following are some important factors to consider:
Monitor and keep alert.
There’s so much going on and the fallout and impacts can come from so many different angles. When it comes to your continuity of operations, your and your team’s security, your response capabilities, and your brand protection, you want to:
- Clearly define how you’re monitoring, what you’re monitoring for, and what the assessment and escalation protocols are.
- Remain flexible. This is a highly volatile situation with risks, impacts, and consequences that we have not yet anticipated or foreseen. The more aware, engaged, and adaptive you are, the better you’ll be positioned.
Be very mindful of misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda.
There is an immense amount of information out there, a lot of which is engineered or manipulated and can be very challenging to decipher. Remember that if you are not receiving your information from a primary source, it may be manipulated to meet the goals and agenda of whomever is sharing it.
For example, last week multiple previously reliable sources posted videos of aircrafts over Ukraine claiming they were documenting the overwhelming success of the Russian Air Force. One was actually a video of a US F-16 and others were videos from old Russian military parades with air raid sirens dubbed into the footage.
It is important to remain mindful that different forms of misinformation are abundant and to build the following into your monitoring practices:
- Identify sources that you either know personally or trust explicitly.
- Even when you trust a source, always consider the possibility that the truth isn’t the whole truth and act accordingly.
- Equip your teams with this understanding and develop protocols to create brand standards and consistency for fact-checking.
Ground your communication strategy in your core values.
Should you declare a position supporting one side of this conflict or the other, whether internally and/or externally? This is a big question that has many advising one way or the other. Some are saying to avoid taking a position because you might have stakeholders on either side of the conflict, while others are demanding to know where your brand stands.
When should your organization—your brand—publicly stand up and stand for a cause, an issue, a social injustice, a societal movement, or anything else that risks igniting backlash and divisiveness? We live in a social impact economy and when it comes to politics and controversial topics, this is always a tricky question for a brand to navigate. So, what is the answer?
The answer is unique to your brand and lies within your core values.
A Crisis Ready organization is deeply seated within its core values and uses these core values as a guiding beacon; a Northern Star, if you will. When deciding what and how to communicate (because if you’re truly going to rise as a leader, “if” you communicate is not in question) reflect first on your organization’s core values and tie them into your communication strategy.
Note: Refer to the Crisis Ready® Formula for Responding to Controversial Issues, which is available as a free downloadable resource. Click here to download this resource and share it with your team.
Be mindful and be sensitive.
Strong leaders are emotionally intelligent and know that people—your teams, your clients, your vendors, your market, etc.—are experiencing and will continue to experience a range of emotions. Be mindful of this, be sensitive to this, and be empathetic in all that you do and all that you say.
- Internally: Address the emotions that may be being felt by your employees and the fact that some of them may be directly impacted by this event with friends or family in Ukraine or the surrounding regions. Embrace their distraction and create a space where people can feel safe, supported, and valued.
- Externally: Evaluate the social media and other marketing messages you currently have scheduled and assess whether they’re appropriate. The last thing you want is to suffer the consequences of appearing tone-deaf and insensitive. This is an easy mistake to make and to avoid.
What are the opportunities for you and your brand?
One of the takeaways from the COVID-19 crisis was watching how even leaders need leaders and how, unfortunately, in highly volatile situations filled with risk and uncertainty, that need frequently remains unrecognized and unmet. This void creates an opportunity for you and your brand to rise.
- Keep your fingers on the pulse of your organization and your eyes on the horizon so that you can better foresee, anticipate, and proactively respond effectively—with both your actions and your communications.
- Understand and anticipate emotions and what they present, both the risks and the opportunities for connection and trust-building. Develop response strategies that enable you to proactively communicate with emotional intelligence.
- No matter what your position, don’t be afraid to lead. The world needs you.
On a more personal, human note, hug your loved ones.
Putting aside any political viewpoints, as you read this there are men, women, children, and animals who are suffering and dying as a result of this ongoing conflict. Our hearts are with those suffering and the innocent lives that are being threatened and taken in Ukraine and abroad. We’ve certainly been hugging our loved ones a little more tightly these past days and we hope you are too.
Note to Communication Consultants: You play a vital role in your clients’ Crisis Readiness and response to this and any other issue or crisis they may experience. If you’d like to be kept updated on new developments and points of consideration to bring to your clients, as well as recommendations on how to go about doing that, click here to learn more about our Crisis Ready Membership for Consultants which is dedicated to supporting you and the important work you do.
Do you have anything you’d like to add or contribute to this list of considerations? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Crisis Ready Institute will continue to provide important considerations for you, your brand, and your clients’ brands as this world crisis continues to unfold.