If you haven’t heard the news, Greece’s financial house is in chaos right now. Like a bad roommate, it’s been a mess for quite some time, and only now, when the rest of the European Union puts up eviction notices, do they realize the folly of their ways. In case you didn’t know, Greece is likely to miss its portion of the rent this month, be dropped from the Euro Zone, and revert to the drachma. Faced with the prospect of losing all their money, Greek citizens have taken to the banks to pull every last Euro in fear that the drachma will be worthless within minutes of being issued, prompting the banks and local stock exchange to shut down today. Suffice it to say, hard times are ahead.
So what can we, as professionals with a responsibility for crises communications, take away from this debacle?
First, understand your situation.
Greece saw warning signs years ago when they continued to spend on the country’s credit card without pulling in the necessary revenue. Instead of holding the line on austerity measures, they borrowed against their future, and lost it all when their creditors called. In crisis mode, it’s easy to stick with established channels and tactics, but when circumstances demand change, you need to nimble enough to make moves that will mitigate the situation. Staying the course despite conditions on the ground will only work against you in the long term.
Second, never get too deep.
By this I mean you should never be so entrenched in your line of thinking that you sacrifice opportunities to rescue yourself from a crisis, or at least soften the blow. Greek citizens had it pretty good for a long time, avoiding taxes and tariffs with little or no repercussion. As the affects this behaviour began to show itself, the public were implacable and led to some of the worst riots and demonstrations they had seen in decades. Good relations with your key stakeholders will help you weather a great many storms, and get you far more at the negotiating table, so long as you make the effort to keep the waters calm. If your stance is in direct opposition to the people who can throw you a life line, be prepared to go down.
Third, know your options.
The quickest way to switch gears in a crisis is to have a gear box. Establishing clear communications protocols and knowing when to throw them into overdrive, helps to manage the expectations of your stakeholders and defines the path forward. Otherwise, you could be over revving the engine or unnecessarily fighting your way uphill.
Greece serves as a good reminder for comms people to give your stakeholders the right level of attention and make sure the moving van doesn’t show up looking for you! Like it or not, you’re all sharing the apartment and it may not be as simple as merely kicking the unruly, unkempt, or untidy offender to the curb. Engage early, engage often, and you will at least be aware of troubles down the road.
Are there any other lessons we can learn from this situation? Is there another current example that comes to mind? Let me know in the comments below.