Why stages are important in crisis management

The Stages approach is not restricted to the media coverage or, indeed, reputation management. There is a wealth of literature on the subject of crisis management; you will find an abundance of literature in the risk management, disaster recovery and business continuity fields.

The populist view, interestingly supported by Dr Timothy Coombs, academic luminary and heavyweight in the field of crisis management and communication, is that there are three basic stages of a crisis:

  1. Pre – Readiness
  2. Response – the Crisis
  3. Recovery – Post

Leading academic, Dr Robert Chandler, an internationally renowned crisis communication expert, and Director of the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida, says there are six stages. Legendary businessman, Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman of General Electric talks about five stages.

Chandler’s six stages have some familiar names – a response and recovery phase, but he adds Warning (1); Risk Assessment (2) before the Response (3), and then Management (4), Resolution (5) before Recovery (6). To me the Warning stage is part of issues management, rumor management, when you are doing your risk assessment. This is the pre-Crisis phase, the smoldering issue phase, that if left unchecked, will trigger you into a full-blown crisis.

Welch’s more colorfully named stages more closely follow Chandler and show insight into the decision-making of big business that, unfortunately, think “bad things won’t happen to them.”

Read more about Dr. Chandler’s stages here.

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