Rethinking crisis communications: Beyond damage control to prevention Headline

By Carlos Espinosa

Crisis communication is oftentimes about being the calm in the storm, but sometimes it also means being the weatherman.

The field is generally associated with a reactive measure, brought into play only when a disaster has already struck. However, this misconception overlooks a fundamental truth: crisis communications isn’t just about damage control — it’s about prevention.

Preventative habits

As someone who has spent decades navigating crises and strategic communications, I have witnessed firsthand the evolution of the practice. It is a field that has been evolving — its true value lies in preventing unwanted events from occurring in the first place.

As it is often thought of and defined today, most crisis events can be effectively handled by any second-year communications grad student. There are piles of templates, use cases and models readily available. The real expertise lies in knowing how to apply them in a strategic and proactive manner. 

It is important to have a dedicated crisis communication leader who understands the nuances of anticipating and averting potential crises and who can identify corporate decision vulnerabilities, address them before they escalate and force your company into containment mode.

Keeping confidence

This shift toward proactive crisis prevention is gaining traction across industries — and banking is no exception. As custodians of financial stability and trust, banks have a vested interest in safeguarding their reputation and maintaining the confidence of their customers and stakeholders. This requires a proactive approach to crisis communications that goes beyond mere damage control.

Marketing and communications will always be integral to the banking industry, but crisis expertise adds an additional layer of protection. It means having someone who can scrutinize internal decisions and external messaging to identify and mitigate potential risks before they spiral out of control.

Words matter

Consider the recent and cautionary tale of Silicon Valley Bank, once hailed as a titan of the banking world. Its collapse sent shockwaves through the industry, with repercussions that reverberated far beyond its balance sheets. While numerous factors contributed to its downfall, one aspect that is often overlooked is its catastrophic failure in communication.

A jargon-filled press release may seem like a minor detail, but in the world of crisis communications, it’s a stark reminder that every word matters. This is where having a dedicated crisis communications lead can make all the difference. Someone who not only understands the intricacies of messaging and media relations but also has the foresight to anticipate potential pitfalls and take proactive measures to mitigate them.

Leadership buy-in

Effective crisis communication also relies heavily on the trust and receptiveness of senior management. Merely having a crisis communication expert as part of the team is insufficient if their advice isn’t valued or heeded. Even if senior management doesn’t fully agree or see the threat, it is crucial for leadership to lend an ear and trust in their expertise. Without this trust and open-mindedness, the effectiveness of crisis communication efforts may be compromised, potentially exacerbating the impact of the crisis. 

As the banking industry grapples with unprecedented challenges and uncertainties, the need for proactive crisis prevention has never been greater. By investing in crisis expertise and adopting a proactive approach to communication, banks can safeguard their reputation and instill confidence in their customers and stakeholders alike. ­

Carlos EspinosaCarlos Espinosa leads the communications and marketing division for the Texas Bankers Association. He is an experienced strategic communications, government affairs and policy advisor with a demonstrated history of working on complex issues

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