When the next “boom” hits, having a good crisis management consultant on your team can feel a lot like having a storeroom full of toilet paper and spaghetti when a pandemic hits.
Whether before, during, or after the crisis, an effective and experienced crisis management consultant provides the support, leadership, and expertise you need to confidently navigate the inevitable crises that face your business.
But what does a good crisis management consultant look like? And how do you know which one is the right fit for your organization?
Here, we take a look at what a good crisis management consultant should bring to the table and how to find the best one for your particular organization.
Before you interview a crisis management consultant
If you want to get the most of your investment in an expert crisis management consultant, you should first have a clear understanding of your organization’s specific needs and expectations.
This means having most of the answers to these key questions nailed down before interviewing a specific candidate:
- What is motivating your current investment in crisis management at this particular time— a less than stellar audit, a board mandate, or having recently experienced a crisis that wasn’t handled well?
- What are your top priorities for improving your crisis management program and are there any key problems that need to be solved?
- Do you have clear executive support for your crisis management program?
- Do you have an approved budget for crisis management maturity and consulting?
- What’s your timeframe for implementing your program or project?
- Who will be running the project or program internally?
- Who will be making decisions about the engagement, including the scope of work and accepting deliverables?
- What does success look like for you in this?
If you don’t have good answers to most of these questions, you might need to take a step back and evaluate why you’re seeking help and what you hope to get out of a potential engagement.
Every consultant will bring a different approach and philosophy to their work. Are you looking for a trusted partner who can embed within your organization and walk with you through the process together? Or do you just want someone to take the reigns and tell you what to do?
There are many good crisis management consultants out there, but simply evaluating their experience and reputation doesn’t guarantee that they will be the right fit for what your organization needs at the moment. Getting clear about your needs and expectations before you start your search for a crisis management consultant will help ensure that you get the most out of your investment.
What to look for in a crisis management consultant
You’ll lean heavily on your crisis management consultant during times of crisis, so they should have plenty of time in the trenches responding to adverse events. But good crisis management isn’t just about getting through the next crisis. It’s informed by a lifecycle approach that strives for continuous program improvement.
You should look for a consultant who understands this and has experience with the full scope of crisis management activities; from developing, training, and testing crisis response plans, to incorporating crisis response learnings into future crisis management planning.
2. Leadership, communication, and emotional intelligence
When a crisis hits, you need your consultant to be calm, confident, and self-assured. They should demonstrate decisive and thoughtful leadership and display a level-headed approach in a response situation.
They must also be an effective and flexible communicator and facilitator who can navigate across all levels of your organization. It’s their job to help you keep everyone on the same page and facilitate coordination among your organization’s leaders and key stakeholders to meet program objectives.
When your crisis response team leader picks up the red phone, it goes without saying that your crisis management consultant should be ready and waiting on the other end of that line. But availability boils down to a lot more than being on speed dial when a crisis hits.
Some consultants take a cookie-cutter approach to the crisis management program planning process. In our experience, this rarely works well. You should look for a crisis management consultant who strives to deeply understand your organization and its primary objectives and is committed to creating a holistic crisis management plan that ensures your success in the face of adversity and uncertainty.
Finding the right crisis management consultant for your organization
There’s no good shortcut to vetting a potential crisis management consultant. It takes plenty of time and research, verifying their experience and track record, reaching out to your network and their references, and finally, interviewing and communicating directly with the prospective consultant.
Here are some helpful prompts to make sure you’re asking the right questions when evaluating a specific candidate:
- How have their demonstrated their authority and expertise? Is there evidence of their expertise through articles, publications, white papers, videos & seminars, or external references?
- Have they performed a similar scope of work for similarly sized clients in the past? Do they have case studies to share?
- Can they readily provide references (and you should absolutely reach out to the ones they provide)?
- What sets them apart from their competition?
- Do they have a clearly defined methodology for working with businesses similar to yours?
- Do they have any suggestions for how to approach your specific project or program?
Price and Deliverables
- What’s their typical timeline for taking over a crisis management program or delivering the desired services?
- How do they measure their work? How will you know that things are getting done according to the timeline?
- What is their pricing and does it include a small buffer for unknown, unexpected, and out-of-scope work?
- Who will be the primary point of contact and what are their credentials? In many cases, the lead consultant with whom you interview may not be the actual consultant assigned to support your organization.
- Who is their support team and what is the escalation process when the primary contact is not available or there is an urgent need for assistance?
- Do they use third-party products or subcontractors as part of the products or services they provide and what mechanisms do they have in place to manage or mitigate the associated risks that their use of these vendors imposes on their clients?
- What’s their current client load and what is their philosophy and plan for managing growth to adequately service all clients?
Ultimately, any really good crisis management consultant will know their strengths and exactly who they are best positioned to serve with their particular brand of experience and expertise. They will also be just as committed as you are to evaluating any potential engagement.
Finding the right fit between organization and consultant helps ensure a productive and enjoyable engagement where everyone comes out ahead.
Are you looking for a crisis management consultant?
Are you looking for a crisis management consultant who:
- Takes the time to deeply understand how your organization works
- Takes pride in designing a bespoke crisis management strategy that is tailored to your specific needs, and
- Is committed to your organization’s long-term success?
At Bryghtpath, we’ve served as the trusted advisor to dozens of Fortune 500 organizations and non-profits. We’ve helped executives evaluate their crisis management programs through our Resiliency Diagnosis process and improve their organization’s resiliency by driving change within their organization.
Our team also has extensive experience managing business continuity & crisis management programs on an outsourced basis – such as our Business Continuity as a Service offering. We understand how to transition into an organization, pick up the current state of the program, and carry it forward successfully year over year—maturing the program and gaining efficiencies along the way.
And, as a small business, we bring the right balance between agility and stability to our engagements. Our size enables us to innovate and pivot quickly as needs change while ensuring a consistent level of service throughout the engagement. You can learn more about our approach to crisis management in our Ultimate Guide to Crisis Management.