Last week we introduced an important rule of risk communication. The 95% rule informs risk managers that in any risk discourse, only 5% of the perceptions and concerns about risks relate to the technical facts about the risk, i.e. hazards. These measurable hazards (usually calculated in terms of probability x magnitude) are what risk analysts and assessors focus on. They are, without question, important and various techniques exist to communicate these facts to the public. However, the view of most publics is that these technical facts about a particular risk pale in significance compared to concerns such as fairness, trust, control, benefits, effects on future generations, potential for catastrophe and naturalness amongst many others. These “risk factors” or “outrage factors” are the predominant drivers of concerns, perceptions and ultimately whether a risk is acceptable (or not).
This week we introduce part 2 of the 95% rule.
Again as with the first rule, this one is quite simple, but often ignored or not prioritized by organizations until a crisis takes hold.
The 95% Rule states that 95% of situations, scenarios and questions that can lead to or arise as a result of a crisis, can be predicted in advance.
Stakeholder Prediction (APP)
This is the cornerstone rule of stakeholder prediction and preparation for situations that, if left unchecked, could result in crisis. The rule underpins an important risk communication strategy, known as APP:
- A = Anticipate
- P = Prepare
- P = Practice
The APP strategy is critical to pre-crisis risk communication efforts. Skilled risk communicators can anticipate most of the issues, operational factors, and other sources of controversy and crisis that may affect an organization. A pragmatic approach to APP necessitates that of the 95% of pre-crisis factors identified, preparations to mitigate controversy and crisis must be prioritized with past experience helping to identify which sources or seeds of crisis are most likely to occur at a specific time. Preparations can be made, monitoring systems deployed and responses and contingency actions developed and practiced. Spokespeople can be identified and trained, partnerships proposed with stakeholders and campaigns to increase dialogue and seek convergence around risk issues initiated. This long-term interactive approach to risk mitigation is the heart and soul of risk communication. If done successfully, many risks will not manifest themselves to a point where a crisis is declared. Those that do result in crisis can be controlled, and through APP recovery will be quicker, less damaging both financially and to the long-term reputation and trustworthiness of the organization. In reality an effective, well-rehearsed and tested APP Strategy, bearing the 95% rule in mind, is one route towards organizational resilience. Such resilience is a significant competitive advantage, and one that is hard for competitors to emulate.