Q&A with Geiser-Maclang: COVID-19 has made crisis management prominent in PR’s ‘New Normal’

Amor Maclang and Brad Geiser are the founders and the executive management leaders of Geiser-Maclang Communications Inc. (geisermaclang.com), a leading Philippine public relations and marketing company that has carved a niche in crisis management in recent years.  Both are internationally certified Enterprise Risk Management professionals. In this joint Q and A interview, the couple discusses that a discipline, once relegated as a PR emergency stopgap, is becoming an indispensable part of the industry’s COVID-19-induced New Normal.

Q:  How do you define crisis management? How different is it from enterprise risk management?

A: Risk management is figuring out in advance what is most likely to disrupt your business and how to mitigate it. Crisis is pulling you out of the fire when you guessed wrong, or what actually happened was outside of your imagined risk.

Q:  Popular convention has it that crisis management and enterprise risk management should be deployed only when the company is really going through major ordeals, e.g.  damage to credibility, loss of public trust, loss of consumers, etc. Would you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

A:  That attitude, unfortunately, is likely what got a lot of companies in that situation in the first place. It is also important to understand that Risk and Crisis Management (RIC) supercharges innovation and healthy risk-taking in companies. Without RIC, most become too risk-averse to innovate enough to survive major changes.

Q:  When do organizations need either crisis management or enterprise risk management?

A:  That choice will depend on how much disruption they want and how much money they care to spend on things outside of their business plan: The earlier companies engage in RIC thinking, the cheaper the fix that will come in the future tends to be.

Q:  How has the coronavirus crisis affected the business’ need for RIC?

A:  Now EVERYONE is in crisis. The companies that think they aren't are the ones who are actually most vulnerable. The only question is how acute your crisis is about to become.

QYou are taking the lead in this field in the Philippine public relations industry, practically sailing on uncharted waters. What were your challenges in building this particular brand of your business? What are the rewards?  What were the lessons learned?

A: We were already very established in the field of crisis management with a long track record for delivering results. Now everything has become extra challenging because now we have to solve individual crises from inside a global crisis. It has taken everything we ever learned and more to adapt. Correct RIC can turn around for the better what seems to be an irredeemable situation. It cannot just do damage control but, as stated above, even lead to the discovery of innovations that can place the organization in a much better position. Examples of these successful cases and how they won against all odds are discussed in the classes that we hold.

Q:  Due to the pandemic, we have seen businesses closing shop and companies just fighting to stay afloat. How should their leaders handle themselves when they find themselves in a problematic or near-doomsday scenario?  What should they keep in mind if they do encounter a devastating storm that can deal a heavy blow to their economics and reputation? 

A:  First, keep calm. Anything you do in a panic will make things much worse. Second, get expert help: Crisis is counterintuitive, as everything that makes you good at what you do will work against you in a crisis. Third, be objective: Crisis feeds on the hearts of fighters and the backs of cowards. Only a rational, measured assessment will lead to the correct response.