What makes a good Crisis Manager?

One of the chief responses when I reveal what I do for a living is ‘that sounds stressful’
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By Tom Adams

I am based in Navigate’s London headquarters and the gradual lifting of Covid restrictions over the last quarter has seen the return of some elements of ‘normal’ life. Among those is meeting new people – something that has been sorely missing from many of our lives. One of the natural, inevitable questions everybody asks during these interactions is: ‘what do you do for a living?’

Crisis Response Manager can seem opaque but it’s often quite simple to distil into a sentence. Something like, ‘I handle the media when there’s bad news’, is generally understood by everyone.

What is not so clear is what qualities or skill sets make up a Crisis Response Manager. Here are a few that I consider to be the most important, and that I work on every day:

Calm under pressure: This is probably the most obvious quality in a crisis management professional. One of the chief responses when I reveal what I do for a living is ‘that sounds stressful’. There are ways you can reduce stress. Repetition, experience and continual professional development all help. But that’s no silver bullet. You’ll always eventually be confronted with something you haven’t seen before, where you need to apply what you do know to a new situation. The ability to stay calm and think under intense pressure is key to providing solid, actionable advice in those situations.

Ability to see the big picture: Crisis management professionals tend to be what I call ‘do-ers’. There is, after all, lots to ‘do’ during a crisis. For me it’s writing press statements, drafting potential QAs, establishing and providing media monitoring reports, joining crisis management calls, circulating plans and guidance, talking to journalists. The list can feel endless. However, spending a good amount of time ‘thinking’ is vital. Having the ability to step back, consider all the factors, formulate options, implement actions and repeat that process in the heat of a crisis is critical to providing an effective response.

Know your client: At Navigate, our standard offering with our clients includes preparatory work. We write plans, we exercise them, and we train with our clients during ‘peacetime’ so that we can work together seamlessly during a crisis. Part of that role is establishing what is important to our clients. Who are their key audiences? Where are their reputations strong? What is their company history? All of this is important in producing a response that is tailored to them – not one size fits all.

Excellent communicator: It almost goes without saying that a media crisis response manager needs to be an excellent communicator. The ability to write clearly and succinctly, provide high-level written and oral updates to senior management and interact professionally with journalists is all incredibly important.

Bring people with you: Often, people think that we are decision makers. We aren’t. We can only advise on the courses of action we think best, based on our experience and expertise. The decisions ultimately rest with the client. Therefore, being able to make a compelling case about why your suggested strategy should be the favoured one is critical. If you can’t bring people with you, you will forever be fighting an uphill battle.

If you think you have all of these qualities, we are currently recruiting for a crisis response manager based in our London office. For more information on how to apply, click here.

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