In the book “The Indestructible Brand: Crisis Management in the Age of Social Media’ we have looked at various scenarios in the social age that can lead to crisis situations.
Infosys crisis is a boardroom battle between founders, board members, and management. While this crisis has not originated in social media it is getting amplified multi fold impacting employees, clients, and investors. With the CEO Vishal Sikka’s sudden exit, Infosys stock price hit a one year low yesterday wiping off Rs 30,000 crore* of investor wealth.
A lot is being speculated in media as to what led to the crisis and who is at fault. This article does not focus on that. Here are few crisis lessons from the book that the Infosys management team can borrow as they gear themselves to handle this situation.
The interim CEO and the board have their task cut out- that of restoring employee, client and investor confidence.
Form a Task force – A crisis Squad: A well-represented crisis squad comprising of key leadership (across verticals), Founder representatives and board members to develop a consensus to tackle the situation. The consensus could be buying time with aggrieved to buy certain time to tackle situation or a complete gag order from approaching media till such a time the consensus is there or specific steps/agenda to soothe all affected parties (founders, board members & leadership)
- Shape the Narrative: The Infosys narrative is now dictated by various statements amplified by mass media and thereafter by social media of founders, board members, ex ceo etc. The task force to own the narrative at every stage. Let media not dictate the agenda. The narrative should essentially communicate the proactiveness, resourcefulness, and deftness of the task force. While keeping the proceedings transparent the task force can communicate timelines and key positive steps being undertaken. While a conflict resolution is the best news, small steps being taken towards that need to communicated in a big manner. Communicate early, Communicate often and Communicate well. A trained spokesperson(s) from the task force representing all the parties can come in handy.
- Handhold clients in this phase: Many clients may be worried about the future of their projects, commitments due to all the bad press they get exposed to. A nervous client is an easy target for competition. The Task force should seek personal meetings with key client leadership teams, addressing their concerns and reassuring them. In doing so they should stick to the narrative (Point 2). No additional information that can lead to gossip is unwelcome. Some positive statements from clients. communication about new wins will be a morale booster.
- Boost Employee Morale: Employee morale, in such situations, is bound to be affected. The Task force and the interim CEO should take immediate steps to address the same. Mass Emails are impersonal. Organise town halls and let key task force members address employees. Small Key group meetings across verticals, as well as large town halls, can help. Let employees not represent the company in the media/ social media backlash. Just because everyone has a social id they need not respond on behalf of the company. Their silence is more valuable than their ability to communicate to public in these situations. But employees should be engaged and kept informed (in a more personal manner) about the specific narrative developed by task force from time to time. Of course, if the employees feel positively motivated about the narrative they are free to RT/share on their facebook, Linkedin, twitter groups. But they need not comment or reply or take part in these discussions when such steps or dissected in media/social media. That job should be left to the task force.
- Improve Investor Confidence: All the above steps will boost investor confidence. Strong team, prompt actions, resourcefulness, client confidence and employee morale all are positive signs for investors. Good news should outshout the edginess investors have during such periods. Remember No News is not Good News.
Infosys is a phenomenal brand and it will emerge stronger and will remain indestructible. Execution is the holy grail of crisis management. Inaction won’t help and neither will hasty decisions or impulsive reactions. Team Infosys- Just Do It.
‘The Indestructible Brand’
Authors- Venke Sharma, Hushidar Kharas
Published – July 2017 by Sage Response
172 pages- Rs 295.