I happened on Stephen Pollan’s book called “Die Broke” at a sidewalk book sale in sunny Scottsdale this past weekend. I must say it has transformed my thinking–I think in very healthy ways. (Hold on now, there will be a connection to crisis management in here somewhere.)
He makes a compelling point that the idea we have all bought into about working our tails off so we can have an enjoyable and comfortable retirement is a new concept–created in the 1930s as part of a plan to help pull us out of depression. When 65 was set as the retirement age, the average lifespan was 63. Now it is into the high 70s and if you get into your 60s you have a good chance of productive, reasonably healthy living for another 20 years.
Die broke is only one part of his philosophy. Another key is to never retire. Keep working because retirement for most people frankly sucks. Those who do well at it find some form of work–charitable or profitable, but they work.
So what does this have to do with crisis management? It’s the philosophy of the journey rather than the destination that is important. If you plan on running out of money just as you run out of life, your focus becomes the journey you are on rather than the destination. Focusing everything on “getting there” only to find out at the end that the destination you planned for your whole life wasn’t worth all the sacrifice is deeply disappointing. It is like the guy who took a train ride through the most beautiful countryside and slept all the way because he wanted to be wide awake when he got to the city he was going to. He found the city a mess and realized he had missed out on the best part of it by sleeping through the beauty.
Building trust is the end goal of communications–especially in crisis communication. That is a mantra repeated here over and over. But it is not a destination, it is a journey. It is not something to be done once and then you are done, it is something to be started right now and the focus of everything we do every day we do it as professional communicators. You want to build trust with your superiors and you want to help your organization build trust among the people who matter most to its future. That’s what your focus ought to be right now.
Dealing with crisis planning is simply the process of thinking through what might go wrong and putting the pieces in place to deal with it if it should happen. The focus of all of that is to build trust. You build trust when you examine the safety and health risks, confront them and do something about them. You build trust putting in place the plans, information and technology needed to communicate quickly and directly when you most need that trust. It is not something to wait for. It is something to do right now and keep doing until the day you retire–what? You aren’t going to, remember?