Crisis Mitigation: A Two-Way Street for CEOs and PR Pros

Many reputation crises occur when executives either get bad advice or fail to heed good counsel. In some cases, executives don’t even seek advice. Perfect example: CEO Vishal Garg and his dismal behavior, firing 900 employees coldly during a Nov. 2021 Zoom call.’s board added insult to injury early in 2022. It reinstated Garg following his sessions with an executive coach during a board-ordered “break” from CEO duties. In addition, the board claims it will implement a “respectful workplace training program.”

But how effective can training programs be when a disrespectful CEO still heads the company? Healing an ill corporate culture requires change at the topmost level of the company first. Without that, workplace training programs are window dressing.

PR executives, collaborating with risk management, HR and other key functions, can play a critical role in identifying and recommending action to address external and internal threats (including toxic people). Unfortunately, organizations routinely underfund communication and related positions that can deliver intel that helps executives make better-informed decisions before they create a reputation crisis.

Social media risk management is another area that deserves better budgets. Some organizations make a token attempt at social. However, management does not supply resources that communicators need to leverage social listening tools and gain early insight into online conversations that have the potential to explode.

Communication teams with insightful, experienced leaders and proper resources can supply executives with invaluable support. They deliver carefully designed strategies that use the power of words to shape opinion and drive behavior that supports organizational mission, vision and goals.

So, the point? Leaders, make sure you build a communication function that can achieve business goals. Provide tools, along with a clear vision of goals. Assure communicators can collaborate with colleagues in other departments to obtain intelligence that will move the needle and measure results.

Communication pros, keep up with the tools you need to build strategy, measure results and make the business case for the company’s investment in you. Work with peers throughout the enterprise and decide how their data can inform your recommendations. Build the relationships needed to assure that your colleagues come to you early when issues arise. This lets you gather facts, assess and make recommendations to contain problems and prevent PR crises.

- Deb Hileman

Deb Hileman, SCMP, is president and CEO, Institute for Crisis Management.