The streets surrounding Weber Shandwick Seattle were closed last week as the city welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping. It forced a lot of us to anticipate what the traffic issues would be and make plans to accommodate those challenges – e.g., work from home, take an indirect route, or walk from a different bus stop.

But as planned street closures turned into sudden freeway shutdowns, it became clear this wasn’t just a minor inconvenience. Much like a seemingly benign Facebook post morphing into trolling or even an all-out crisis, it forced us to restrategize and make thoughtful decisions on a limited timeline. The good news is that we’re a team well-versed in navigating difficult scenarios, so we put our issue planning and response skills to work:

  • Anticipate scenarios and develop a plan. Thinking through the worse-case scenarios and the “what ifs” will allow you to create an effective response. Just as knowing the bus reroute map was imperative for public transit commuters, having a clear picture of your assets, opportunities and key audiences will help in crafting a thorough and actionable plan. But when the scenario you’ve anticipated shifts…
  • Be ready to roll with the punches. When I-5 South closed Wednesday afternoon, it threw a wrench in even the best-laid plans. When confronted with a similar issue, rapidly assess the situation, determine whether (and what) immediate communication is needed and formulate an initial response that may be informed by your initial plan.
  • Recover and rebuild. Traffic may have been business as usual come Friday, but we know there are more closures to come (8th and Howell project, anyone?). With the initial incident behind us, we’ll take a look at how our plans worked and identify where we need to make changes for next time. It’s also an opportunity to fortify your current position, so that the issues that do come up are less impactful. From building reputation through thought leadership to ensuring you have the appropriate internal communications channels in place, having a strong foothold at the outset can lessen the blow and long-term impact of issues that do arise.


We’ll be ready with even quicker and more effective responses next time a road closure strikes in our construction-ridden neighborhood. Now as the quarter draws to a close, we’re looking ahead to the challenges 2016 will bring. Are you?

Photo credit:Jeffrey Potts

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