Book Review – Crisis Proof by Jonathan Hemus

It’s always great to see a new book on crisis management, and I was particularly interested to see this one as I used to run crisis management training courses with Jonathan Hemus some years ago.  One of the most common problems with books that purport to be about crisis management is that they really just talk about crisis communications; so it was great to see the author repeatedly emphasise the point that crisis communications is only ever part of an overall crisis response.

The book is at its best when Jonathan draws on his extensive experience with a broad range of clients to paint a vivid picture of what good (and bad) crisis management looks like; particularly in some of the early chapters.  References to a number of recent crises help bring this discussion to life.  The two later chapters on crisis management exercises also bring that topic to life and contain much useful guidance.  The book is weaker though when it attempts to generalise, with examples and statistics apparently cherry-picked to support particular claims about the impact of crises and why some firms perform better than others.

My main criticism of the book is the way in which it appears to position crisis management as a separate, stand-alone process or system within the organisation.  Despite discussing the relationship with other disciplines in Chapter 2; when it comes to talking about developing a “crisis management plan” in Chapter 8, no reference is made to these other disciplines.  In particular, there is no attempt to explore the relationship between the “crisis management plan” and the “incident management plan”, which is an integral part of any business continuity management system.  Thus, it appears, one could have completely separate command structures and documentation for dealing with different types of incident within the same organisation.  I have always found it more helpful to think of crisis management as an organisational capability (developed through training and exercising), rather than a separate process with its own extensive suite of documents.

Overall I found the book very readable, and I am sure that it will achieve its stated aim of encouraging and giving confidence to senior managers new to the field of crisis management. I would just urge readers to explore some alternative viewpoints before getting into the details of implementation.