If you follow astrology, you may know that Mercury goes into retrograde next week. Starting September 27 and spanning through October 18, this Mercury retrograde is the third and final of the year. Cue the chaos.
As communicators, astrological phenomenons can teach us a lot, especially when it comes to managing crises. If you’re new to astrology, let me tell you why. Named after the messenger god Mercurius, Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system, closest to the Sun. In addition, it's the fastest planet, orbiting the Sun every 88 Earth days.
Its retrograde is the result of an optical illusion, which makes it appear to be moving backward. This trippy effect–and the fact that Mercury rules communication–is said to be the reason for frequent mishaps and misunderstandings during each three-to-four-week occurrence.
Similar to Mercury's retrograde, you can depend on issues and problems to occur at least a few times a year. Sometimes they grow into a full-blown crisis.
But, with this inevitability comes the ability to prepare before chaos strikes. Taking a page from the Mercury retrograde playbook, these best practices will help you navigate issues, problems and crises no matter your sign.
Expect The Unexpected
The disruption a crisis brings can be extremely disorienting, of course. This is why it is critical to examine vulnerabilities and plan before things are at their haziest. It’s better to be prepared, having already done due diligence to develop the break-glass-plan for when the planets are out of alignment. Preparation will ensure cooler heads, helping you avoid mistakes or communicating poorly. So, consider the following now:
- Consider your goal(s) in a crisis
- Think about stakeholders you'll need to communicate with during a crisis
- Know where and how to deliver your message and who will do so
- Anticipate possible reaction to your message and possible outcomes
These steps and more are part of the planning process that will help you and your team stay in orbit and keep fallout to a minimum.
When Things Are Moving Fast, Slow Down
Though timeliness matters when responding to a crisis, especially in today's digitally propelled news cycle, resist the urge to rush to a half-baked solution. Developing holding statements and contingency plans now will help avoid missteps made in the heat of the moment.
Moreover, reviewing facts and involving stakeholders in a predetermined protocol will give you the strength and security to execute flawlessly. If you’ve taken time to plan, you’ll have the breathing room to maintain control of your response and appraise it before disseminating it to relevant stakeholders.
In Crisis, Opportunity
As a Gemini whose ruling planet is also that pesky winged messenger Mercury, I try to find the rosebud in the thorns. Sure, it can be easy to blame every hiccup on Mercury retrograde, but instead of looking at it negatively, ask yourself as a communicator: What can we learn from it? How can we grow and improve so when the alarm sounds next time, we’re better prepared?
Post-crisis debriefs are especially useful. And ultimately they help evolve your organization’s approach from crisis management to crisis mitigation.
The retrograde motion is seemingly apparent to the naked eye–but don’t be fooled, it’s not really moving in reverse. This is a good reminder that proper planning and calm execution will help us navigate crises and even grant us an opportunity to reflect. Recalibrating decision-making processes, communication styles and ways of thinking can be a valuable exercise for you and your team.
If all else fails, remind yourself–just as Mercury eventually returns direct, nearly every crisis too shall pass.
Bryce Bozadjian is a senior account executive at ROKK Solutions