Your company likely means everything to you. If you’re like most people, you would do almost anything to make sure it’s safe. That starts with a great plan for how you’re going to deal with a crisis, should one ever arise.
Unfortunately, most companies will have to deal with disaster at some point in their lives.
Fortunately, it is not usually the crisis itself that brings most companies down, but rather the lack of planning that results in an ability to deal with its effects. If you want the best chance of surviving a catastrophe with minimal impact on your financial well-being and your public image, you need a crisis management plan in place beforehand.
What Is Crisis Management?
In a nutshell, crisis management is a diverse range of strategies that help an organization deal with an unexpected negative event that might otherwise cause significant damage. Crises occur for many reasons, including natural disasters, information leaks and security breaches, public defamation, lawsuits or violence.
Despite the nature of these events as unpredictable – happening when the company doesn’t expect them – they don’t have to be totally unforeseeable. In fact, depending on your industry, there are a number of crises that you should see coming and prepare for. Any potential risk to your business is one you should absolutely have a plan to address, which is where crisis management comes in.
Why Do You Need It?
Crises almost invariably create damage to a company; it is the extent of the damage that matters. Depending on the nature of the incident, the crisis may affect various people differently. A shooting, for example, will traumatize employees and customers who were there at the time; a security leak could impact customer loyalty and stockholder trust; a lawsuit or defamation could affect a member of the C-Suite or an owner. Advanced planning is absolutely critical to surviving such incidents.
A crisis management plan is not simply saying what you ought to do in a crisis. Instead, it is a specific strategy stating exactly who will do what, at what time, in what order and so on. Many management plans fall down by not having enough specificity, and by failing to realize the crucial role of communication. You need a thorough plan delegating both internal and external communicators to ensure you are addressing everyone who needs information immediately after the crisis occurs.
Otherwise, you risk:
- A failure to communicate internally with the efficiency and effectiveness needed to address the crisis
- Confusion on the part of stakeholders, who will become confused, react angrily, distance themselves, and perhaps even communicate negatively with the outside world
- Legal implications if you fail to swiftly address the situation and do all you can to make it right
- Significantly extended timelines for resolving the crisis and recovering stability in the company
If you wish to avoid any and all of these negative consequences, a plan is key.
The Importance of Communication
Now let’s take a closer look at how you can build a communication plan that really works. The first step is to appoint a team to oversee crisis communications. This team should appoint specific people to manage specific branches of communication when disaster strikes: Internal, Shareholder, Press, Social Media, Clients and Customers, Suppliers, etc. Anyone whose goodwill you wouldn’t want to lose should be covered. While the CEO does not have to head up this team, they should be integrally involved in the planning and aware of the plan, because it is their voice to whom many outside influencers will turn in a crisis.
You should also involve legal counsel and the PR department, the former to inform your plan and the latter to craft an approach. In larger companies, PR departments may have the sufficient expertise to deal with crisis communications themselves, but for most businesses, that’s not the case. Make sure to also inform the heads of departments about your plan as well, especially the parts that affect them directly.
Crisis Management Basics
Truthfully, crisis management is not rocket science. While it requires swift and decisive action backed by a thorough plan, it doesn’t have to feel impossible. It does, however, require some basic steps, many of which can be checked off before the crisis even hits.
We have addressed some of these steps specifically already, but here they are in overview:
- Perform thorough risk management and identify the types of crisis you are most likely to encounter. Plan for as many as possible.
- Appoint various crisis communicators.
- Train spokespeople to address various factions, such as the press, social media, shareholders, etc.
- Creating notification systems that will help you automatically respond to various crises (think SMS texts, emails, blog posts, etc.)
- Develop messaging to use as soon as a crisis strikes, while you craft responses more specific to the crisis.
- Assess the crisis to determine how best to respond to the exact situation you are facing.
- Adapt your messaging to fit the situation.
- Make things right with stakeholders in whatever way necessary (from discount codes to customers who were inconvenienced to formal apologies for scandal, and so on). Tie up loose ends and move forward.
- Analyze the situation to learn exactly what contributed to the crisis, what went well and what could be done better next time.
If you follow the above steps and create an excellent, thorough crisis management plan, it’s very likely you will not only handle the disaster well but come out the other side stronger and better than before.
How can we help?
Our experts at Bryghtpath have built, implemented, and managed the crisis management processes used by many Fortune 100 firms, as well as small to medium enterprises around the globe. Learn more about our approach to Crisis Management in our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management. We’d love to talk with you about how you can leverage our experiences and knowledge to improve your organization’s resilience.
Drop us a note via our contact page or give us a call at +1.612.235.6435. We’d love to help!