From crisis responders to resilience builders: the changing role of the Hong Kong crisis leaders

Effective crisis leaders are now called on to engage in an endeavour that is much bigger than the usual crisis preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.

The headwinds facing the global economy have turned an already complex landscape into what may at times feel like an ominous, foggy maze. In this challenging environment, our latest global crisis study shows that issues management requires leaders to think and act beyond the traditional parameters of risk management and crisis communications in order to stay resilient in this highly uncertain world.

Effective crisis leaders are now called on to engage in an endeavour that is much bigger than the usual crisis preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. The questions they face are how to make their organization more resilient to crises, how to preserve their business licenses to continue operations, and how to rebound from crises when they strike as quickly as possible. This new role for crisis leaders requires an updated playbook and a connected approach to addressing current and future issues. 

The starting point of the new crisis playbook remains fairly simple, yet surprisingly overlooked: business needs to get a thorough understanding of the needs, expectations, and aspirations of the public, as they evolve in an ever-changing complex political, social, and economic context.

Yet this is a particularly challenging exercise for organizations operating in Hong Kong. As the city reopens to the world, companies must ask themselves how Hong Kong and its society have evolved throughout the pandemic.   

Tackling this critical topic to develop and implement effective crisis responses requires Hong Kong crisis leaders to become sociologists, ethnologists, economists, data scientists, and more—sometimes overnight! With this overwhelming responsibility, it is critical that leaders take a thoughtful approach to their new mission, starting with:

Responding to the expanded responsibilities and prioritisation of crisis management by directing appropriate resources to staffing, planning, and training across the organisation. Strengthening infrastructure around societal issues (such as climate change, gender and equality, talent, poverty, etc.), including the decision-making framework, process governance and proper cross-functional insights around the issues themselves, and the data required for decision-making.

Placing integrity and dependability at the core of crisis response activities, and ensure they are reflected in actions as well as words. Be honest and be prepared to follow up on commitments set.

Making sure the organisation understands stakeholders and audiences, and align the crisis function to this changing landscape by evolving the organization’s crisis insights, preparation, planning, and execution capabilities.

This is more important now than ever because of the influence of Gen Z—a generation that is more demanding in transparency and accountability for business than its predecessors.

One in two CMOs/COOs expect crisis management to be one of their fastest-growing areas of responsibility in the coming years. Managing crises is no longer just the domain of corporate communicators. Today’s landscape requires the whole business to commit to creating a culture of resilience.


Antoine Calendrier is the Head of Issues and Crisis, Asia Pacific, Edelman. PRHK Viewpoints is an article series contributed by members of PRHK, Hong Kong's PR and communications association.


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