The era of crisis opportunity

By Robyn Sefiani

Having counselled clients through many crisis scenarios, including the Global Financial Crisis, it’s clear this COVID-19 crisis is different. Triggered by a global pandemic, many businesses have navigated the first painful month of adjustment, recalibration and realignment to best position themselves to survive and emerge stronger.

What’s glaringly different this time, is that a company in crisis is not alone. There is less focus on companies in crisis and more interest in those successfully morphing and adapting to the new normal. We’re now in the era of crisis opportunity.

Crisis commentary

In a typical crisis, the affected company provides regular updates on what it’s doing to resolve the crisis and ensure it never happens again. However, what people and businesses want now is clear and timely information, facts and guidance on what do next, both in their personal and business lives.

Governments, banks and media have stepped up and will be rewarded with higher levels of public trust, not only for practical assistance provided but also the empathy shown. Now is the time for subject matter experts to be visible and share their knowledge to assist others.

Crisis inspiration

Now is also the time for corporations to step up and live their true purpose and be better corporate citizens. Not only is it inspiring to see beauty companies pivot to produce hand sanitiser instead of perfume but there are examples of inspiration everywhere.

The Ballarat teacher who started a Facebook page suggesting backyard camping sparked a phenomenon for Easter family fun and a nimble leisure brand moved swiftly to advertise products and claim Australia’s Biggest Backyard Campout. Good for them.

Another practical initiative I like is Coles’ friendly and encouraging nightly cooking classes during prime-time TV news bulletins to inspire and help Australians cook healthy and tasty meals. Coles understands a lot of Aussies aren’t expert cooks and they’re helping meet a need. The most inspiring companies are the ones whose corporate reputation will strengthen during the pandemic.

Crisis innovation and collaboration

Innovation is not typically a tactic deployed in crisis management or recovery – until now. Smart businesses are probably thinking, “If we don’t innovate, we may not survive”.

Collaboration is springing up between previously unlikely bedfellows, harnessing collective IQ and capability, building resilience and enabling surprising and helpful services and outcomes suited to the current environment and what will follow.

The first great example of this was when the CEO of Woolworths offered to hire the stood-down Qantas staff to stack supermarket shelves. Clever collaboration providing mutual benefit to each organisation and its customers provides a great narrative to share, attract business and build brand and corporate reputation.