Contributed to EO by Eden Gillott, who is president of Gillott Communications, a strategic communications and crisis PR firm. She’s the author of A Business Owner’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting You & Your Business’ Reputation, an EO Los Angeles member, and that chapter’s Accelerator co-chair.
We asked Eden about the similarities between entrepreneurship and crisis public relations. Here’s what she shared:
1. You’re a small percentage of the population.
As an EO member and entrepreneur, it’s easy to forget that most people don’t own businesses. According to Verne Harnish in Scaling Up, “There are roughly 28 million firms in the US, of which only 4 percent ever reach more than US$1 million in revenue.” It’s why the EO Accelerator programme trainers always remind EO members and Accelerator participants in the room that we’re breathing rare air. Similarly, Crisis PR is highly specialized in the world of public relations.
Recently, I went to a going-away party for a Fortune 10 company employee. The group was complaining about their various bosses, an upcoming reorg they felt was handled poorly, and the breakdown in how company expectations for their departments were being communicated.
The discussions at that going-away party are the type of things that I, as a crisis manager, strive never to have happen in the first place. I work to minimize brand damage when disgruntled employees stir the pot. It’s all about managing perceptions. If employees are unhappy about how things are handled or communicated, it’s on us as company leaders and crisis managers to fix it.
2. You don’t shy away from risk.
As an entrepreneur, you step up to do things most people won’t.
And sometimes, running your business can feel like you’re managing a new crisis daily. Or, like many entrepreneurs in EO, you own multiple companies, which means your life feels like organized chaos.
Crisis PR isn’t about playing it safe. It’s about doing the things most people are uncomfortable doing. Crisis managers live for the adrenaline rush of charging full speed ahead into a crisis.
3. You’re a team player.
We didn’t get our businesses to where they are by working alone. Our team sizes vary from a few employees and partners in the same city to thousands spread across the globe. We know we’re better together.
Even the statements you see during a crisis are a team effort. The communications that come out are not created in a vacuum. Paragraphs are blended, quotes and commentary are incorporated, and legal is always consulted before anything is uttered or published.
4. You’re great at spotting trends.
While you’re excellent at spotting trends, you also know that what worked in one situation may not necessarily work in another.
Each situation is unique, which is why you’ll hear me say, “This sounds very similar to other clients we’ve worked with.” But I’ll never describe it as “exactly,” “identical,” or “just like” anything I’ve handled in the past. You learn from experience, but only so much.
5. You fight to guard your time.
“Hold on. I need to go handle something.”
You slip out of your seat at dinner to take an important phone call. You peel away from a party to send an email (even if it’s to delegate the crisis to someone else).
Crises are no respecters of time. They don’t care if it’s a weekend or if you’re at a special event. For both entrepreneurs and Crisis PR managers, time boundaries are often blurred or nonexistent.
6. You take knowledge and apply it.
As entrepreneurs, we’re constantly learning and figuratively downloading into our brains the new trends and principles to apply to our businesses. We know there’s a difference between the iconic scene in The Matrix when Neo confidently says, “I know kung fu,” and applying what he learned to win against Morpheus. Neo still needed the hands-on experience (no pun intended).
Similarly, seasoned crisis managers have what feels like a terabyte of scenarios and playbooks stored in their heads. The compounding effects from the never-ending parade of possible variables empower us to tackle a crisis head-on and make it look easy.