#MeToo: Is your crisis management plan passing the test?

Over the past year, the #MeToo movement has initiated a real change in culture around the world and companies are no exception. This collective awareness has accelerated the implementation of measures to prevent harassment, such as the Canadian anti-harassment bill, C-65, which received Royal Assent in October 2018, and will require federal jurisdiction employers to prevent and act on harassment and violence, and to investigate and report any such incidents.

Companies have a moral responsibility to protect and facilitate support and denunciation for victims. They must also ensure that the abusers’ powers are removed without harming the organization.

But what about communication? Beyond policies, companies must put in place effective internal mechanisms to govern their actions and statements if a leader is accused of sexual assault. In today’s reality, the crisis communications management plan should include a specific section devoted to these issues to prevent, react promptly if necessary, and ensure that all communications are transparent, sincere, and accurate.

Protecting your brand

Allegations of harassment against a business leader can have serious consequences for an organization and can seriously damage its reputation. Between the loss of customers or investors, employee departures or recruitment problems, troop morale is affected, productivity is lost, and there are also legal costs and other financial compensations that result. The impact is significant.

In the public relations sphere, strategies to build strong brands focus on establishing a solid communication foundation and dialogue with stakeholders. The following are principles which can provide solid levers to prevent harassment:

  • Fostering a corporate culture based on the values of respect, justice, and equity
  • Building an inclusive organizational environment
  • Adopting, communicating, and disseminating clear anti-harassment policies
  • Providing ongoing training using a variety of methods and evaluate the effectiveness of such trainings
  • Adopting clear complaint and whistleblower processes and responding immediately to any complaints that are made
  • Providing employee support through an employee assistance program

Such an approach should start with a vulnerability audit that will lead to the development of a risk mitigation strategy and the development of messages, whether they are “proactive” or reactive.

The company will want to ensure that it creates effective systems and confidential, secure, and accessible communities to provide ongoing support. It is important to provide a confidential, bilingual, 24/7 accessible whistleblowing system, ideally operated independently of the company. The company will also ensure that psychological and social support services are easily accessible. Additionally, since issues often arise online, the close monitoring of social media remains essential.

Does your crisis management plan pass this test?

Annie Paré About the author
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