In other articles on this site and in seminars we''ve conducted for the Public Relations Society of America we''ve stated that nothing heals the wounds of a crisis like time. As time goes by, the hurt feelings and horrors associated with organizational misdeeds tend to subside. We recommend that an organization and its executives focus primarily on doing the right thing rather than saying anything. Actions during this period of recovery are far more important than words.

Now a new study suggests that executives believe it takes companies more than three years to recover from crisis. In an era when the average tenure of a CEO is down to about five years, that is a truly remarkable finding.

According to market research by Burson-Marsteller that surveyed 685 business "influentials" -- CEOs, senior executives, financial analysts, business media and government officials in 65 countries -- recovering from a reputation-damaging crisis takes 3.2 years. The report also found that quickly disclosing the details of a scandal or corporate misstep should be management’s top priority as it begins the process of restoring corporate reputation.

It is in a company''s best interest to get it all out there and report their own bad news before others define the story for you.

According to the market research, the top ten crisis management turnaround strategies are:

  • Quickly disclose details of the scandal/misstep (69%) -- see our article, Crisis Communications Response: Your 10-Minute Window
  • Make progress/recovery visible (59%)
  • Analyze what went wrong (58%)
  • Improve governance structure (38%)
  • Make CEO and leadership accessible to the media (34%)
  • Fire employees involved in the problem (32%)
  • Commit to high corporate citizenship standards (23%)
  • Carefully review ethics policies (19%)
  • Hire an outside auditor for internal audits (18%)
  • Issue an apology from the CEO (18%) -- see our article, Why "I''m Sorry" Is a Crisis Communications Staple" 

One thing that suggests the respondents may be more than a bit out of touch with the relative importance of the Web, only five percent of senior executives believe that updating their Web site can be an effective tool in their crisis management and corporate reputation turnaround strategy. Memo to executives: aside from face-to-face communication with internal audiences and top-tier regulators, the Web is the primary communications vehicle for organizations in crisis!

Kudos to Burson-Marsteller for investing in this research. It''s very helpful to get a glimpse into the minds of the world''s executives.