As crisis communications counselors, we’ve seen our share of smart executives make really poor decisions in the heat of a public relations crisis. Why do they do that? Communications experts Peter Barrett and Jamie Diaferia presented a snapshot of how a host of cognitive biases work to undermine crisis strategy and leadership.
The short version: Executives “readily underestimate the physiological and emotional impact of stress on human behavior. … In live crises, surrounded by angry customers and prying journalists, agreed upon strategies and response protocols can quickly disintegrate as even senior decision-makers are prone to prevaricate or panic.”
The lesson: Take the time to build a thoughtful crisis response plan and then avoid the emotional temptations (i.e., panic) to deviate from it.
Jeremy Story is a Vice President at GroundFloor Media, where he co-leads the firm’s Crisis Communication & Reputation Management practice. He has more than 20 years experience helping companies ranging from start-ups to the Fortune 100 prepare for, manage, and recover from crisis issues.