Came across a useful word and concept today that fits the times we are in, and has profound implications for companies and PR agencies handling crises: Permacrisis.

The term was made word of the year by Collins Dictionary in 2022 because it “summed up quite succinctly how truly awful 2022 has been for so many people”. 

A year earlier, according to the academic portal The Conversation,  British wags used the term to define the era beginning with Brexit that moved on to the pandemic and then the war in Ukraine…

Simply put, a permacrisis is when we find ourselves in the midst of being buffeted from one unprecedented event to another with no let up and with the possibility that things might get worse just right ahead.

Companies operating in Indonesia must know the feeling of being in a permacrisis as they face one issue after another: cancel culture, the bursting of the tech bubble, layoffs, angry netizens empowered by social media, a divisive electoral process, international conflicts, polarization of communities…

Each of these issues can trigger a business crisis for a company if it takes a misstep in handling them, or if they are plain unlucky. So what is a company to do in the face of a permacrisis that is the dominant feature of the war we live in?

Pulling the blanket over your head until it all blows over is unfortunately not an option for companies so the only recourse they have is to do two things.

The first is to dig deep within themselves to define their corporate character. This involves examine what is important to them as a corporation, their purpose. Corporate soul-searching you could put it, where the end result is an entity that is grounded on its values and would have the confidence to make the difficult calls that it will be facing during the permacrisis.

The second course of action is to skill up in crisis management. In a permacrisis era the chances of you facing a crisis situation is extremely likely so unless you have offices who are trained to handle such situations, you’re asking for trouble.

Crisis management skills include decision-making under tremendous pressure, proper delegation of work to contain the situation, effective crisis communications and being able to manage the operational and communication responses to the situation concurrently and in tandem.

It’s a suite of skills that are not intuitive and must be learned and practiced through drills and simulations.

If corporations can ramp up in these two areas then they have a good chance of surviving the era of permacrisis.  If they don’t the next crisis may result in huge financial and social costs.

Written by Ong Hock Chuan