Merriam Webster defines catastrophising as “to imagine the worst possible outcome of an action or event; to think about a situation or event as being a catastrophe or having a potentially catastrophic outcome”.
Most of what is written about catastrophising explains how not to do it, offering tips about changing your mindset to avoid doomsday thinking.
But in the world of communications and public relations, catastrophising can be a healthy thing.
Somewhere between apathy and sheer panic is a place where careful worst-case-scenario planning can be very beneficial.
Midway through the year, we’ve already found ourselves in the issues or crisis management trenches with numerous clients. Some are dealing with the anticipated and probable but, in other cases, situations from out of left field.
Clients come to a communications firm like Sequel PR in two ways – proactively or reactively.
Proactive clients are generally the ones who are more than happy to ‘catastrophise’ in a productive way about what the challenges and tricky questions that could develop or how a crisis may unfold.
They think about the worst in order to plan their response (privately and publicly) to mitigate reputational damage.
Reactive clients arrive at our doorstep already on the ropes. Sometimes it is difficult to alter the course of the fight once the bell has gone on the first round. Already smarting from a body blow of some sort, reactive clients are less likely to want to consider just how bad the fight could get. They are more inclined to want to ‘wait and see’ (desperately hoping it will blow over) but some are fired up and want to hit back.
In our experience, there’s a lot to be said for worst-case planning. More often than not, it makes the eventual issue feel far less catastrophic than anticipated.
Often we see graduates of Sequel media training popping into our news feeds, calmly handling questioning similar to the scenarios we have practiced with them. If they hadn’t ‘catastrophised’, by having issues or crisis management plans or taken time to learn some basic on-camera interview skills, the outcome could be the stuff of nightmares.
Not all mainstream media training is equal.
We believe it needs to be tailor-made and relevant to the kinds of proactive and reactive engagement your business is likely to encounter.
In the spirit of ‘under-promise and over-deliver’, which most good business operators strive for, a rule of thumb for issues and crisis management planning should be ‘over-prepare and under-require’!