Finance and Management

Lessons in Crisis Management and Mitigation

04 July 2023 06:21 AM | UPDATED 11 months ago

Lessons in Crisis Management and Mitigation :

 Lessons in Crisis Management and Mitigation
Lessons in Crisis Management and Mitigation

Communicating During a Crisis: Lessons in Crisis Management and Mitigation

Case

Author: Sabithulla Khan

Online Pub Date: January 02, 2019 | Original Pub. Date: 2019 Subject: Crisis Management, Financial Reporting, Business Ethics Level: | Type: Indirect case | Length: 1225

Copyright: © Sabithulla Khan 2019

Organization: fictional/disguised | Organization size: Large

Region: Western Asia | State:

Industry: Construction of buildings

Publisher: SAGE Publications: SAGE Business Cases Originals

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781526468284 | Online ISBN: 9781526468284

© Sabithulla Khan 2019

This Lessons in Crisis Management and Mitigation case was prepared for inclusion in SAGE Business Cases primarily as a basis for classroom discussion or self-study, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management styles. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an endorsement of any kind. This case is for scholarly, educational, or personal use only within your university, and cannot be forwarded outside the university or used for other commercial purposes. 2022 SAGE Publications Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The case studies on SAGE Business Cases are designed and optimized for online learning. Please refer to the online version of this case to fully experience any video, data embeds, spreadsheets, slides, or other resources that may be included.

This content may only be distributed for use within Wentworth Institute of Higher. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781526468284

Case

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the case study, students will be able to:

  • appreciate the need for crisis and communications planning;
  • brainstorm a communications strategy;
  • develop critical thinking skills about confidentiality, timeliness of information, and communications management;
  • comprehend nuances of geopolitical trade, communications, and how uncertainty prevails in these contexts; and
  • appreciate communications styles based on cultural norms and expectations.

Case

Selma is a seasoned Public Affairs Manager in a large public relations and public affairs firm in Doha, Qatar. She has grown within the firm; starting as an intern, she now manages a portfolio that includes some of the largest clients in the region including Hilton Group and Dell, among others.

Her day-to-day tasks include managing media, advising clients on how to position themselves in their markets, and helping them plan for long-term strategic initiatives and events. These responsibilities mean that Selma works both at the tactical and strategic levels, incorporating advice from her own team. Selma’s team consists of members of media planning team, account managers who offer strategic counsel, and senior management. Thus, her team includes members at all levels, from interns to senior staff members. Selma has been a rising star for a several years; she has had particular success mitigating and managing risks for clients.

On a warm summer day, Selma receives a call from James, a reporter with whom she has cultivated a professional relationship for many years. James inquires if the gossip that he has heard about Shams Qatar is true. Shams Qatar is one of the largest real estate firms in its category in the region and has a reputation for aggressive growth across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The rumor James heard is that Shams Qatar is closing or declaring bankruptcy due to mismanagement of funds. In the past, Shams Qatar has also gotten into conflicts (motivated by their expansionistic organizational policy) with other firms in the region (none of them in Qatar). These conflicts have caused a few tense situations for Selma’s firm, which she has had to diffuse, using various strategies, including facilitating meetings with their competitors and also releasing press statements with those competing firms, given that they are part of the larger real estate ecosystem. Direct confrontation with competitors is considered bad practice in the industry. Everyone is mindful of respecting the competition and keen on putting a friendly face, at least in public.

The real estate firms in Qatar have traditionally worked with each other to stave off competition from other countries, forming alliances where needed. This has also rankled other real estate firms in neighboring countries that see the ambition of the Qatari firms as threateningly expansionist and not conducive to their businesses. The nationalism of Qatari firms is on display in a subtle way; even though these firms want to remain “neutral,” they cannot be perceived as such.

The economic blockade by Saudi Arabia and other countries has had a disastrous impact on the businesses and the Qatari economy, though the government of Qatar does not want to disclose this information. However, private firms are facing this impact bravely and patiently. They have, for instance, taken losses to continue projects that have a reputational value for the state of Qatar. Most firms have not laid-off employees, as is the norm during such situations.

In the past, Selma’s client company—Shams Qatar—has received help from the rulers of Qatar in the form of cash infusion. Given the proximity of the top management of Shams Qatar with the rulers of Qatar, the rumors James has heard of financial mismanagement may well be true. Shams Qatar does release its annual financial statement once a year, but it does not hold a press conference or invite media queries regarding its finances, a fact that is held against it by financial reporters such as James. James is a U.S. journalist who has cut his teeth with media outlets such as Financial Times and Middle East Economic Digest (MEED), two of the most influential media outlets in the region. He values transparency and is known to be fair, even if tough at times. James is aware of the previous cash infusion into Shams Qatar, totaling about USD 4 billion from the royal family, and is not too confident in the management’s ability to turn around. His research has shown that things are not looking too good for Shams Qatar.

James gives Selma 24 hours to respond to his questions. He informs her that if he does not hear from Selma, or Selma does not provide a quote or any other input from her management team, he would be running the story with the information that he currently has. He believes this piece of news to be credible and wants to be the first one in the tiny country, which is known for its freedom of press, to run this story.

Selma has reason to believe that the information that the reporter claims to have may be partially true. The only way to verify this is to contact the leadership of her client firm and talk to them

The main contact for Selma at the real estate firm, the Director of Communications, is on vacation and the CEO is the only person with whom she can have such a high-level conversation. She is nervous that bothering him about a rumor would not be ideal, but at the same time ignoring this call would be disastrous for her client and perhaps her agency’s relationship with this client. They are a very large account that pays a big retainer to Selma’s firm.

There are several tensions involved in this situation: Should she give credence to James’ call and alert the client? Should Selma prioritize transparency, a value that James holds dear, or counsel him to focus on trusting what she has to share with him, given her strong relationship with him over the years? Additionally, should she, a mid-level manager in her firm, reach out to the senior management, given that her senior management is not available, to make this decision? Would her prudence be seen as being out of line, given her designation in the firm?

What should Selma do?

Discussion Questions

  1. Should Selma treat this call from James as a crisis?
  2. If Selma determines this is a crisis, what steps should she take?
  3. What approach should she take in dealing with both the internal audience (her client, her own firm) and the external one (media, public)?
  4. How should Selma handle the differing styles of communication between herself (a Middle Eastern public affairs professional) and James (a U.S. journalist)?

Further Reading

Aleem, Z. (2017). Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic war with Qatar explained. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/ world/2017/6/6/15739606/saudi-arabia-ties-qatar-trump

Boin, A. , ‘t Hart, P. , Stern, E. , & Sundelius, B. (2005). The politics of crisis management: Public leadership under pressure. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Center for Biopreparedness Education. (n.d.). Crisis communications planning workbook. University of Nebraska Medical Center. Retrieved from http://www.comipi.it/library/crisiscommunication-workbook.pdf Simmons & Simmons. (2015). Doing business in Qatar – 10 key points. Retrieved from http://www.simmons- simmons.com/-/media/files/corporate/factsheet%20pdfs/aaa%20locations/ doing%20business%20in%20qatar.pdf

https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781526468284

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