By Phil Vangelakos
Every crisis is an opportunity.
During President Barack Obama’s first term, his then-Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, was noted for operating by the mantra “Never waste a crisis.” A hard-nosed political operative and former Congressman himself, Emmanuel knew exactly what anyone living in the campaign space understands— bad situations can create fantastic opportunities.
As Push Digital takes on more and more corporate clients—I’ve noticed business become paralyzed in situations that campaigns see as par-for-the course. Likewise, rather than capitalize on the attention in a positive way, corporations tend to cower and retreat.
So what’s the difference? Why do campaigns react one way and corporations another?
Here’s the key: Campaigns can see beyond current events and keep their eye on the prize, election day. Therefore, a good campaign manager will see the significant opportunities that await beyond the crisis… and maybe because of the crisis.
Here are a couple ways that your business can capitalize on a downturn or tough situation like a political operative.
Stay alive. Come together.
As a campaign manager, I’ve had to talk candidates and staff off a ledge when things looked bleak.
Often, I’ve said things like… “This will blow over” or “It’s a one-day story” or “We’re not dead yet.” Of course I was lying. Sh*t went haywire. But in my mind, I was looking to keep everyone calm, and find a “plateau” where a safe basecamp could be forged during the storm. Sure, our progress up the mountain had been halted, but the expedition continues. My priority was always to stay alive and bring the team together.
Crisis can create solidarity in an organization. Let this horrible situation make your team more cohesive, more committed and more trustworthy in your leadership. Once you’ve gone through the storm… you’ll have a stronger better campaign.
Find the opportunity.
Sometimes the forest needs to burn down for new growth to flourish.
On campaigns, there’s a lot to be said about the “path to victory.” Simply put, it’s “how we win.” When crisis hits, you need to reevaluate your path to victory. Things have changed. The plan needs to change. When bad things happen, I ask myself, “What’s the easiest path forward now that things have crumbled? Is there a better path now that I know the facts?”
Ask yourself some questions.
Does this crisis allow you to shift your market? Shift your position in the market? Create a greater brand loyalty among your faithful customers? Can we reposition funds to better serve our new position? Should we redeploy or reallocate our personnel more efficiently? Is this a good time to promote individuals who shined during the crisis?
Inevitably, these questions will lead to answers you couldn’t have seen before the crisis and better position you for fights to come.
“F^%k those m*therf^&@ers.”
This is basically the internal monologue of anyone who’s successfully managed a campaign through a crisis. Campaigns are war. You may have lost a battle, but now you’re stronger, you’re repositioned and now it’s time to fight back.
Practically though, ask yourself the question: Can I use this crisis to throw our competition off their game?
Maybe your competition has similar weaknesses to you before the crisis. Exploit them.
Maybe your competition used nefarious means or shady practices to take you down. Expose them.
Maybe your competition underestimates your ability to out maneuver them because of the crisis. Undercut them.
Congrats. You’re now the underdog. And people LOVE a good fight. If you can’t find a way to strike back post-crisis, you’ve wasted a grand opportunity.