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Can a crisis make you a celebrity?

Picture of man speaking to the press
Ready or not.  Say, “Cheese!”

While artists, athletes, and performers struggle to make their mark in the public eye with a memorable act or viral moment, a different type of celebrity has been emerging on the scene - the spokesperson for a crisis.

Here’s a quick exercise to highlight the point:

Jeffrey Boyd, Lew Frankfort, and Stephen Hemsley. Do these names sound familiar?
If not, don’t feel bad. They are the CEO’s of Priceline.com, Coach, and UnitedHealth Group, respectively.

Now, how about the names Tim Cook and James Comey?
We can immediately recall them as the CEO of Apple and the FBI Director, respectively, feuding over a locked iPhone involving a federal investigation of the San Bernardino shooting.

The media diligently covered Cook and Comey’s debate for more than three months. During that time, both men emerged as stars in a cast of characters ranging from lawyers, judges, politicians, and even presidential candidates. The media and public tuned in to hear their perspectives on data privacy, security, technology, civil rights, and terrorism.

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Should global organizations have a global security operations center (GSOC)?

“How did you go bankrupt?”
“Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

- Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

I was working with a head of risk management—the chief risk officer—at a global organization that does not have a GSOC. One night over dinner, I asked him why his organization didn’t have one, and suggested he spearhead the initiative. His response? “I’m not convinced we need one. The organization has always operated without a GSOC, so why start now?” He also said, “The reality is, we’re already doing it here and there. The system works fine. Let people do their thing.” Something that seemed so obvious to me and so unnecessary to him left me on the defensive and him on offense.

The reality is, if you’re a global organization, you need a GSOC—or some version of it. If you don’t have one, you will need to communicate the severity of the situation and get one. Allow me to illustrate the need for such capabilities so you can justify the business case to your leadership and board…

GSOC

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How soon do you need to communicate after a crisis?

I was working with an executive team on a crisis scenario, when one of the leaders asked a question on crisis communication. He asked, “How soon do we need to communicate? 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day, …?” He was looking for a precise number to evaluate a few past incidents that were on top of mind for everyone in the room. I gave the common answer, but right answer, of “it depends”. He gave a look of dissatisfaction and made a discrediting posture. I went on to share a few basic statistics from Daniel Diermier’s research (author of Reputation Rules) such as “online news stories suggest that the typical window is only eight hours; 20% of all news stories on a given issue are published within an eight-hour period; so forth.” Some time has passed since the exercise. After some thought, I want to provide executives with six (6) crisis characteristics to consider when determining when and how to communicate.

Crisis communication meeting
When should you communicate?

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