Transmissions and Proactivity

It happened on the way back from dropping my son at daycare. That dreaded dashboard indicator. That miniature messenger of malice. Like the “Bat Signal” fired up by Commissioner Gordon, it beams its bright yellow light at the most inopportune times – alerting everyone in the vehicle that trouble brews under the hood. You guessed it; it’s our friend the “Check Engine” light. Already being nearly impossible to ignore and with a business trip coming up the next day, it was an issue that would need to be addressed right away.

Following a quick trip to my trusted mechanic, the source of the backlit transportation tormentor was revealed – it was a transmission error code. Cue a woman’s scream and the iconic “dun, dun, DUN” music. The day was a Monday, pouring rain and had the makings of something young Alexander would reflect on. No way was I escaping this escapade without a major dent in my savings envelope.

We’ve all been there, right? At this point in the story, we could head a number of directions. I can hear the comments from the peanut gallery now. That’s what you get for driving a 13-year-old car! Should’ve bought a Ford! Yes, there are money and car manufacturer discussions we could have here, but in this scenario, I was reminded of something essential in the public relations world: proactivity.

A good public relations individual/team is nothing if not proactive. It’s a mindset and one we try and champion for our clients. Pick your scandal, recall or what-have-you, and just like clockwork, two weeks later you’ll read a news brief about the organization hiring a PR firm. While potentially helpful, often, the damage to perception is already done. Being proactive is strategically planning ahead, anticipating what might happen and setting a course before the crisis. Are your processes and procedures in place to handle a crisis? Does your particular industry lend itself to vulnerabilities? Have you defined roles and responsibilities for staff? Most of these are operational in nature and don’t even touch the communications side of things, where a crisis can be mishandled publicly and derail entire organizations.

Now, back to my car example. Ever seen what happens to a car when you don’t change the oil? It requires regular maintenance (changing oil/filter) or your engine will seize up! Other times, even with regular maintenance, a car can experience issues – it was made by and is driven by humans! Armed with this knowledge, it is wise to plan ahead (financially, emotionally, etc.) so you don’t lose your religion at a transmissions shop.

Even the best run organizations experience crises of some kind, and they either survive or fall, depending on how they have proactively planned ahead. Take the initiative, and when the transmission error code shows up, you just might hug your mechanic.