How can an organization, community or brand better prepare to anticipate or respond to rising issues and crises? What is the difference between a crisis and an issue? In the modern-day world, news about events--positive or negative--travel faster than ever before. Technology has transformed the landscape of crisis management and organizations are prone to a multitude of risks than can attack from every angle. 

Melissa Agnes spoke at the 2018 ICMA Annual Conference and shared her expertise in crisis management and readiness highlighting aspects of her new book, Crisis Ready. Her talk focused on the four simple yet powerful steps toward providing a community or organization with a crisis-ready culture that will lead them to invincibility.

The four steps are:

1. Choose your lens.

Crisis readiness is cultural. Agnes explained that the lens through which anyone sees a negative event directly impacts the actions they take in response to that event, which directly impacts the result of that event on their organization or community.

2. Take a 360-degree view.

Agnes urged attendees to look at who matters most to their organizations and communities. She stated that they be aware of what their community would expect from them during a crisis.

3. Consider worst-case scenarios.

Agnes stated that it is an essential step to know the difference between an issue and a crisis for a community or organization to be crisis ready. Agnes defined a crisis as a negative event or situation that impacts--or threatens to impact--stakeholders (people), the environment, business operations, the organization’s reputation and/or the business’ bottom line, over the long term. She said that a crisis will stop business as usual and will require immediate attention from leadership. She defined an issue as a negative event or situation that either does not stop business as usual, and/or does not threaten long-term negative impact on any of the five business attributes listed in the definition above. In her book, she writes that it is still important to quickly detect and manage issues, because if they are mismanaged they can develop into crises. Agnes gave a couple of examples of negative events that would qualify as a crisis or an issue. One example was last year’s Oscars' Best Motion Picture mishap, where La La Land was mistakenly named the winner. The negative event was an embarrassing issue for the Oscars, but not considered a crisis. However, the same negative event was qualified as a crisis for PWC, who was in charge of providing the Oscar presenters with the envelopes.

4. Establish trust now.

Agnes stressed that it is important for organizations or communities to have an open line of communication and built up trust with their stakeholders. Stakeholders in their communities or organizations should know how to reach their leadership. 

Melissa concluded her presentation by stating that if communities or organizations follow these steps, they will take a giant leap toward building and embedding a crisis-ready culture.

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