Modern Management Challenges


Dealing with Crisis and Brand Trauma

Many times, the effects of management and professional decision making end up making the news. When United Airlines forcibly pulls an elderly doctor off a plane in order to give his seat to another company crew member and an ethnic community warns its populations to avoid traveling on the airline for fear of discrimination, the incident streams on social media and the company's CEO is reprimanded.

Facebook's data leak scandal exposed the personal information of 50 million users in a data harvesting scam, but management's slow to respond to the problem is widely criticized, the company's stock drops, and some call for the company's CEO and COO to resign.

Local and national news reports are filled with incidents of infidelity by politicians and sexual harassment by noted media personalities, helping spawn movements like "Me Too" and again, demands are made for those involved to resign their positions.

Finally, yet another incident of a white police officer shooting an unarmed black man is documented triggering demonstrations, challenging the confidence local citizens have in their police force, and prompting calls for government investigations, changes in operating procedures, like the use of wearable video cameras, and, of course, litigation and punishment of those involved.

In these and other incidents what's perhaps most significant is that the organizations and their social networks involved are subject to two distinct forms of trauma: operational trauma that affects the organization or professional's ability to function, and brand trauma that affects stakeholder relationships. This book, Managing Organizational Crisis and Brand Trauma, examines these two types of trauma to illustrate ways they are different, how their effects can be measured and, importantly, what types of plans and action are required to resolve their impact.

The book's orientation is based on the premise that addressing operational trauma produces a crisis-management plan that changes ways things are done in the organization, while brand trauma focuses on the organization's stakeholder network. Brand trauma is unique because it reflects broken links between the organization and members of its social network. When brand trauma emerges it communicates something about ways people are thinking and talking about the organization and its brand at that moment.

The emergence of trauma is a truly dramatic process with effects that can unfold in different ways for different organizations and stakeholders. The impact of operational and brand trauma are explored in detail with the understanding that a) trauma is presented as "spreading" through the organization and its network, sometimes growing much like an infection or a disease, and b) treatment of these traumas requires management of the total social network. In short, for some the critical management challenge is that both vision and competency are essential to resist the tendency to focus efforts on a "favored few” key clients, adversaries or regulators.

Dennis Tafoya (PhD, University of Michigan; MS, University of Pennsylvania), author of Managing Organizational Crisis and Brand Trauma, has more than 30 years of academic and business experience. He is president of CompCite Inc., an international research and development firm.

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