“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”


We used to call a crisis a “disruptive or unexpected emergency situation that affects your business”. Nowadays we just call it Tuesday.

From extreme weather to a viral TikTok, not even mentioning wars, pandemics, or supply chain disruption, if it seems to you that we live in a permanent state of new and recurring crisis… it is because we are. And this is not a feeling for an individual business or an industry, but a global collective experience. Can we still, in this day and age truly follow John Maynard Keynes’ quote that “in the long run we are all dead,” or do we have to act quickly?

Be it the environmental crisis that affects us all or some social media blitz that can destroy anyone’s reputation in a day, the “new normal” is now indistinguishable from the inevitability of a crisis.

This is the topic that Antonio Cunha Vaz (CEO of H/Advisors CV&A), Daniel Traça (then Dean of the Nova School of Business and Economics) and I (Diogo Belford Henriques) were talking at a breakfast meeting – at the university campus overlooking Carcavelos Beach. Daniel’s thoughts on this, of not only uncertainty but unpredictability, were later expressed in his opening speech at the Estoril Conferences, which started with the ominous sentence “the world is a lake of black swans”. And we started to think, in our experience of dealing with crisis, what were the common denominators of those companies that endured, or even flourished, after dealing with menacing emergencies and reputational disasters? From product recalls to boardroom battles, from natural disasters to criminal leaks, what was different in those organisations that were able to cope with such problems?

A pattern soon emerged, as we were rethinking cases and business terror stories: preparedness and leadership involvement were the crucial elements for those who succeeded.

Of course, crisis – by its own definition – cannot be predicted. But the processes to deal with the unexpected can be prepared. It’s not a coincidence that we have taken lessons from civil protection and aviation’s crisis management frameworks in planning, exercising simulations, establishing emergency committees, risk assessment, quick response guides and in so many areas. All of these can and should be applied to businesses.

And if a prepared team is vital, the same can be said for any involved leadership. Some problems can be operational, or legal, and others an issue of communication, but any solution to such an emergency must include all aspects of a company – and this is where the leadership is needed. An existential threat to a company’s reputation can’t be solved merely by the Communication’s team, nor can physical or logistical problems be fixed without communicating with all the stakeholders. The board and the CEO are a major factor in organising a response to take swift action in a coordinated manner.

Contact the team

Diogo de Belford Henriques
Head of Public Affairs

H/Advisors CV&A