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Can a crisis be good for your business?

2.5 min read

Crisis is defined as a time of great disagreement, confusion or suffering. For farm business owners, it’s often an incident or event that interrupts the normal flow of operations and puts the stability of the company at risk. It might be a chemical spill, a food-quality compromise, or an outbreak. But in the Chinese translation, crisis also means a turning point.

Jeff Chatterton, crisis communication consultant and president of Checkmate Public Affairs in Kitchener, Ont., takes this to mean that in every crisis, there is opportunity. It stems from the fact that people actively watch and listen when a business is experiencing challenging times. In other words, there’s an engaged audience.

In every crisis, there is opportunity.

“If you handle it well, a crisis can do far more for your image, reputation and credibility than any amount of vanilla leadership training, sponsorship or advertising,” he says.

Chatterton works with business leaders across many industries, instructing them how to prepare for and react to crises. It’s not usually a case of if something bad happens, but when.

“Most of the crises we end up dealing with are not the ones everyone thinks of,” he explains. “Where business owners can get into trouble is on something completely out of the blue that they had not previously thought about. If they had, they could have fixed it in advance.”

3 tips to managing a crisis

Chatterton shares three crisis management tips that farm business leaders can learn from.

Know your audience

The phrase “crisis communications” can conjure up images of executives in the national media spotlight. But for many farm businesses, consumers may not represent the most important audience. It may be more important to target communications to employees, suppliers and other stakeholders, which doesn’t lessen the significance of the crisis.

“Even if you’re not in a customer-facing role, you’re just as exposed and vulnerable to a catastrophic reputational crisis,” Chatterton warns.

Accelerate the pace

Acting quickly and communicating effectively are essential. In the past, companies prepared for crises with expansive communication plans. Chatterton calls this an old-school approach no longer relevant.

Today, managing crisis is all about the speed of communication. Your team can quickly create messaging on the spot, and most producer organizations can provide advice. Another option is a membership-based program giving companies ongoing access to a professional response team, something Chatterton has developed as an alternative to a communications plan that may quickly become obsolete.

Evaluate your mindset

Chatterton says the ideal mindset for business owners in crisis is a mix of resiliency and optimism. Although crises can be stressful and overwhelming, it’s important for leaders to adopt wellness practices to battle burnout. Engaging professionals and not attempting to manage a large crisis alone are also key.

From an AgriSuccess article by Rebecca Hannam.

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