As the summer winds down I find myself wanting to write something about Little League Baseball. This was the fifth year I’ve managed my son’s baseball team and it was by far the most fun I’ve had. Originally I volunteered to manage a team because they needed someone and I didn’t have a good excuse not do it. Now it’s just plain fun. I’ve learned a lot about baseball these past five years. But I’ve learned about more than that. My involvement in Little League has made me feel more like a part of my community. That sense of community is important to business as well. Not necessarily to increase sales, but to build goodwill.
When a crisis strikes your business you’ll want your community in your corner, especially if your company has some culpability. If you need to tell your side of a story you’ll want some sympathetic ears. If you demonstrate that you are a good member of the community you are more likely to get a fair hearing. If in the end, volunteerism does nothing for your business it can still leave you with some fond memories and for me, that’s enough.
The recent episode with Jay Cutler’s injury in the NFC Championship Game reminded me of a similar incident in my own career. When I was the IT Services manager for a financial services company (I’m sure you can see the similarities already) my supervisor advised me that a couple of other managers were unhappy with me over a particular incident. The other managers complained that I hadn’t shown enough concern over a systems problem they had encountered. It didn’t matter that I took care of the systems problem in a timely fashion. The managers felt that I didn’t respond properly. The perception was that I didn’t care when in reality I did care and was confident the issue would be resolved. The complaints against Cutler were similar. Many people thought it didn’t look like he cared about the game once he went out with the injury.
This is an important lesson for crisis management. When facing a disaster or crisis event, it is important for a company to convey the message that they are concerned. It’s not enough to know that you are doing everything possible to protect customers, employees, the community, the business. You must convey the message that you are concerned and prepared.