The Institute for Crisis Management has published an annual “crisis report” about news coverage of crises in the United States since 1990. In 2015, the firm tracked a total of 212,000 crisis stories in the news.
The Institute defines a business crisis as “any problem or disruption that triggers negative stakeholder reactions that could impact the organization’s business and financial strength.”
The Institute for Crisis Management is actually a private company – and the publication of its figures appears to be a device to get media coverage and to position the company as expert in the field. Nevertheless, its information on crises is interesting.
Sudden versus smoldering crises
In 2015, most of the 212,000 US crises reaching the news media were ‘smoldering’ – they had been apparent in the background, but no one acted to prevent them or reduce their impact. Around 78% were smoldering, while 22% were classified as ‘sudden.’ The proportion of smoldering crises had increased from 65% in 2007, indicating managers still don’t understand they should act to prevent or reduce the impact of crises.
Main US crisis categories in 2015
- 31% Mismanagement
- 13% White collar crime
- 8% Consumer activism
- 6% Environmental damage
- 6% Whistleblowers
- 6% Executive dismissal
- 5% Discrimination
- 5% Cybercrime
- 5% Labor disputes
- 4% Hostile takeover
- 3% Class action lawsuits
- 3% Defects and recalls
- 2% Casualty accidents
- 3% Other
In 2015, the most crisis-prone industries were:
- Automotive Manufacturing
- Banking, Insurance & Financial Services
- Government Agencies
- Health Care
Only about half of organizations worldwide have a crisis plan in place.
Among the most important lessons learned from the thousands of crises in 2015:
- Plan, plan, plan!
- Know who your key stakeholders are and how they find information about your company. Plan to communicate across multiple formal and informal communication channels.
- Be prepared for the crisis to break first on social media.
- Update your crisis communication plan to include a comprehensive plan for social media.
- Invest resources in exercising your crisis plan and updating it regularly.