Gina dela Vega-Cruz
When crisis strikes
Leslie Miranda-Guillermo (The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A crisis can make or break a company or an organization. How the organization deals and  responds to the disruption could spell the difference between survival and the obliteration of decades of hard work and company value.

“There are no perfect organizations just as there are no perfect individuals. Everyone commits mistakes. Organizations can be put in difficult spots by certain individuals who are in no way representative of the rest. Every crisis presents an opportunity, even for complete change,” said crisis management expert Gina dela Vega-Cruz.

When every other person can be a citizen reporter and news spreads like virus at digital speeds, a public relations crisis is no longer a question of “if” but “when.” “Good sense dictates you prepare for this,” she said.

Corporate calamities can shake even the steeliest of professionals to the core but this woman can stare storms in the eye without flinching. She concurrently works with sectors traditionally viewed as male-dominated and high-stress environments: as consultant to the Office of the Senate President and as lecturer at the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Command and General Staff College, training would-be generals and admirals on public speaking and crisis communications. “Women have this innate and natural ability to breathe first and then listen to instinct while simultaneously considering the different scenarios available as options.”

According to Dela Vega-Cruz, “What is required is a mindset that is not only prepared for it but willing to embrace it. Because only after accepting that you are indeed in crisis, only after going through the hump of denial, and only after staring crisis in the eye can you muster the courage and the thinking required to contain it.”

The former broadcast personality and corporate communications senior executive is now also the crisis management expert at NGP Integrated Marketing Communications, a PR and digital marketing firm based in Ortigas Center. With the guidance of Dela Vega-Cruz, the company offers a comprehensive program for organizational preparedness to strengthen clients’ responses to critical situations.

But she wasn’t always this fearless. At age 20, the cum laude Communications graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman quit an enviable job at the country’s largest media network, succumbing to pressure just a month into her new job. Though she regretted it for years, today that experience is but a footnote to her career success.

Perhaps what sets Dela Vega-Cruz apart is that instead of curling up and disappearing after a major setback, she opened up to the profound learning experience to the point that she turned practically the entire jobs industry as her training ground. Though she belongs to a generation that discouraged job-hopping, she went against the grain and did exactly that, “not only as a career strategy but to learn more and to learn faster.”

Her work involvement ranges from power and energy, legislative work, and hotel and hospitality to personal care, banking and finance, and Australian higher education. She worked on all these on top of her on-camera hosting and news writing stints on television and radio, citing the inspiring and electrifying energy in TV news broadcasting: “This is an environment that just has so many moving parts that no two days are exactly alike. The breaking news alone gives you adrenalin several times in a day.”

Not many would have this rare combination of corporate PR work and hands-on media exposure. “It’s a potent and powerful blend, having been on both sides of the fence. I knew what both sides needed and demanded. I knew the unique structures and dynamics of each and how these factors play in to the unfolding and coverage of a crisis.”

Coming out stronger

Drawing a line between mistakes made in the course of business and mistakes made intentionally to inflict harm, she recalls working with a prospective business owner whose planned purchase of a company appeared legitimate. But then she got wind of his unscrupulous maneuverings and foiled his attempts to steal the customers’ investments. “If an organization is a scam, for instance, out to milk people of their lifetime savings, there’s no redemption there. I will not handle such a client.”

She has recently broken into the public speaking circuit that counts too few women among its ranks, which is why she intends to make her presence count. “I’ve encountered the whole gamut in terms of crises. This wealth of experience is what I hope to share with companies out there who recognize that a crisis can be life-altering for the organization and can have devastating effects if not managed well.”

Dela Vega-Cruz is especially mindful of the fact that public and private organizations provide livelihood and a sense of meaning and purpose to countless individuals who have to sustain and support their families and communities. “We need them to survive any crisis and to continue their businesses and economic activities if we are to ensure also the continuous progress of the country as a whole.”

Imagine a population fully prepared for any crisis: “If you manage it well, improbable as it may sound, you can come out unscathed and even stronger and better for it. Isn’t that exciting?”

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