A make or break opportunity 

Stakeholder mapping is critical to successful crisis management 


From United Airlines to BP, misunderstanding your stakeholder’s perceptions and sensitivities can add oil to the flames: which is why, far from being just a tool to understanding your key audiences, stakeholder mapping is proving critical to successful crisis management. 

Every period of turmoil is frightening. It challenges the status quo and threatens our comfort zone. Turbulent times, uncertain times and crises all call for focus and steadiness. Perhaps the clichéd navigation metaphor can never be too relevant: to ride out the storm, one must hold the course. 

Statistics from the Institute of Crisis Management’s 2017 annual report show that 68 per cent of business crises worldwide are non-event-related, or smouldering, crises, with the main crisis category being mismanagement. 

Often the problem or issue exists long before it goes public, yet little is done to address and resolve it or, worse, it is covered up, before it escalates. A single trigger - a rumour, a leak, a stakeholder action can catapult an organisation into crisis in a very short time, with devastating effects. 

Therefore, with the majority of crises today being slow-burn, much can be done in advance to anticipate, prevent and mitigate issues before they spin out of control. Proactivity in crisis management is the name of the game and being prepared to respond effectively is no longer sufficient. 

Crisis management is a strategic discipline that is embedded in the organisation’s corporate culture, driven from and by the top echelon, and implemented across all levels and across all functions in the organisation. 

Communications teams’ traditional focus on media relations during a crisis is no longer enough. They are now taking on a wider strategic role in the organisation including stakeholder mapping and engagement and scenario planning to help management teams anticipate crises and alleviate their impact.