Crisis management has been defined as the process by which an organization deals with a disruptive and unexpected event that threatens to harm the company or its stakeholders. Before a crisis happens, business owners should think about how the situation will impact employees, customers and the company’s value. A crisis can happen at any time, which is why advanced planning is critical. Although there are several steps that a company can take, here are some critical steps to consider:
- Have plan in place. The plan should be in writing and it should include specific steps that will be taken in the event of a crisis. Your action plan is basically a crisis management check list for your crisis team. It ensures that no important task gets forgotten or overlooked when things get hectic. When creating your action plans you’ll want to identify the tasks and action items that each department would need to undertake and accomplish within the first 24-48 hours of a crisis occurring.
- Activation guidelines. Not all incidents and issues escalate to crisis level. And while your crisis plan should address all types of issues and crises, your crisis plan is meant to only be activated when an issue escalates, or has the potential to escalate, to crisis level. The first section of the plan should define this criteria and provide your team with the tools and information they need to make this determination in the heat of the moment. Some elements you may want to incorporate into this section may include:
a. Definition of a crisis – whether in the broader sense of the term or by narrowing in and defining certain specific crisis scenarios
b. The crisis management levels that all incidents should be categorized into
c. Internal escalation protocol(s)
d. Specific impacts that you want your team to consider when determining the level of an incidentIdentify a spokesperson. By selecting one person, the company can ensure that it speaks with one voice and it delivers a clear and consistent message. The spokesperson must be trained and must be prepared to answer questions and participate in interviews.
- Identify a spokesperson. By selecting one person, the company can ensure that it speaks with one voice and it delivers a clear and consistent message. The spokesperson must be trained and must be prepared to answer questions and participate in interviews.
- Be honest and transparent. Honesty can minimize remarks and diffuse media frenzy.
- Communicate with all stakeholders. Information should come from you first.
- Update often. It is better to overcommunicate than to allow others to spread rumors.
- Be aware of social media. Establish a social media team to maintain, post and respond to social media activity throughout the crisis.
The point of developing a crisis management plan is to think through any difficult decisions and map out, to the best of your ability, the necessary tasks, communications and information that will help make managing a crisis easier and more efficient. As a company develops its crisis management plan, it should seek advice from experts that includes your leadership team, employees, communication experts, and lawyers. Each of these individuals can add value that may prove critical should a crisis hit your company.