Reimagining risk

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It is always a surprise when people forget – or don’t bother – to assess risk. It is a vital part of any undertaking and a necessity when developing a public relations and communication strategy for your organisation.

This month I’ve been discussing risk with everyone – on courses, with clients, with new businesses during set up – and on each occasion the commonality has been a reluctance or failure to see what is possible, what’s probable and why we should consider risks at all.

Assessing the four main risk categories – financial, operational, reputation and environmental – requires a strong cup of tea, an intense session of scenario building followed by a detailed audit. Consider the areas of risk in each category, assess the probability, determine how the risk will be managed and communicated. Don’t confuse your risk assessment with issues management – we’ll look at that in another post – and, while you are at it, add societal risk to your thinking.

Earlier this year, loss of social cohesion was highlighted by the World Economic Forum as one of the major risks ahead and I don’t think there is a country in the world that hasn’t felt the dust of fragmentation in the last 24 months. If a risk team exists in your organisation, work with them. They will be looking at the obvious and, in my experience, there are few risk teams that properly consider the consequences of failing to manage reputational risk. Getting out of bed in the morning is a risk and, as humans, everything we do has an element of risk associated with it but for our organisations, we need to consider risk at scale. What risks are acceptable? What must we mitigate? What must we reduce? How can we address any potential harms? Risk management is intrinsically linked with ethical behaviour – organisations that behave well will also be the ones that mitigate risk for their stakeholders. Failure to address risk – and bad behaviour – accelerates the descent to crisis. So start early, analyse well, correct, mitigate and communicate.