Is your business prepared respond to a crisis? No matter your company’s size, all organizations need to develop a well-rounded and effective crisis management plan (CMP) to deal with a threat or potential crisis.
A crisis management plan is a strategic document that prepares businesses to respond in the most efficient way to a crisis. It can be prepared with the help of crisis management experts, damage assessment professionals, a communications/public relations team, attorneys, and company leaders.
It can take years for a brand to build credibility and be successful, but it can take seconds to undo years of hard work via a crisis. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain a CMP. Consider these steps as you prepare yours.
When outlining a crisis management plan, the first step is to assess the risks and threats which could lead to a potential crisis for your business. Although you can’t always anticipate a risk, you can prepare for the ones that are potentially poised to impact your business. You should start by listing the relevant vulnerabilities that could impact your business with the help of the leadership team, company stakeholders, and the crisis expert team. The list could possibly include economic downturns, manufacturing and supply chain issues, product recalls, weather-related crises like flooding/volcanoes/ hurricanes, public relations gaffes, social media issues, negative online reviews, cyberattacks, and workplace matters. You can develop a crisis management plan based on the type and level of risk, and how quickly your team responds to it.
In this stage, you need to be clear about what could be a possible crisis, the different categories of crisis, the expected duration, the impact that the crisis will have (damaged reputation, customer dissatisfaction, revenue loss, regulatory fines, increased costs, low sales, etc.) and the crisis protocol your company plans to follow in the aftermath.
There are a few basic questions that you need to ask:
- What could be a potential threat that would impact your business functions?
- How susceptible is your organization to such risks?
- Can you determine the impact of the crisis?
- Do you have a mechanism to deal with and respond to such crises?
Identify Substitutes and Contingencies
After determining your risk assessment and potential business impact, you need to come up with an alternative plan. How can you minimize the threat to business and employees? Can you respond quickly to a situation that takes place during odd hours? Do you have ways to communicate information quickly when there’s a need? You also need to prepare emergency escape plans so that when there is a threat, employees can safely exit the premises. In case of virtual threats like poor reviews, negative comments and social media trolls, you should be ready with your statement and action plan.
There will be multiple scenarios you’ll have to evaluate, and the response to each will differ from the other. Identify tools, resources and the specific team which can help you resolve the issue or potential threat. For example, customer service, corporate communication and public relations teams work together to interact with or reply to customer queries and media, and build and protect the image of the company.
Devise a Crisis Management Plan
As soon as you have assessed your risks and identified contingency and alternatives for each potential threat, you should start to work on the actual plan. Team up with all your stakeholders, partners, best resources, and the crisis department for their insights to create the best solution for an identified threat or crisis. Make a document that will have the solutions, steps, relevant regulatory requirements, and the complete action plan that will help you prepare and resolve the crisis. Take a fact-based approach to creating an effective communication route.
This plan helps an organization navigate through situations that can escalate to a crisis. The key elements of the plan include the following:
- A crisis management team who is in charge of coordinating and supervising the response. They are also responsible for meeting legal guidelines and sourcing credible information.
- Defining the roles of management, which primarily consists of decision-making and accountability.
- Setting up processes for both internal and external communications, and creating a crisis playbook with key messages and talking points.
- An action plan that sets, measures and identifies resource availability, tracks performance, and evaluates the impact.
Revisit the Plan
It is crucial for any business to revisit the plan frequently and perform periodic tests after it’s created and approved by the company. It’s also advisable to review the plan as company protocols are updated, new employees join the organization, and tech/IT upgrades occur. Time-to-time drills of different crisis situations can reveal gaps and strengths of the organization. This will help you evaluate the plan, and make the necessary changes required. All employees should understand their roles, for which a crisis playbook should be handy, or have real-time access to the company’s crisis management playbook. A crisis management training program for the employees will allow them to act proactively during a crisis.
Keep a Resource Repository
To avoid panic during a crisis, you have to keep all the important contact information handy. Your playbook should have contact information of members of the crisis management team, stakeholders, vendors, third party consultants, and other experts. Keep it updated frequently, and if anyone joins (or leaves) the crisis management team, check the document to ensure that it has current contact information.
In addition, your resource repository should have all the resources and materials like flowcharts, timelines, legal documents and access information for the network and communications team (to name a few), when there’s a crisis situation.
It’s imperative for organizations to be vigilant. You need to think through, communicate widely, train the staff and create an effective plan to manage a potential crisis, while monitoring any current issues.