Every company is likely to have to handle a crisis eventually. This may be a natural disaster, a supply chain failure or workforce disruption — or it may result from a mistake somewhere in your business operations. No matter what happens, every enterprise should have a plan that helps their staff navigate a crisis.
Creating a comprehensive crisis management plan can be a challenge, even for companies that have a good idea of what risks they face. A good strategy needs certain critical components to be effective when it counts. These nine tips will help your company build its crisis management plan.
1. Identify Critical Staff
Know exactly who is needed to keep the lights on. A data center, for example, may require a skeleton crew to be present on-site to keep the servers online. Other essential staff may be able to work remotely through a crisis. You should have a plan for how these employees will get to the site or work from home. This plan can also outline what special equipment or resources they may need.
2. Include a Crisis Communications Plan
Communication is an essential component of any good response. Having crisis communication protocols in place will help your marketing, PR and social media staff quickly coordinate a message across the channels you have available. They’ll be equipped to reassure your customers and communicate how your business is working to handle the crisis.
A good crisis communications plan should include contact information for relevant parties, like customers, vendors and regulators. It should also have protocols for how your communications staff can get in touch with people who need information.
If you don’t plan for crisis communications, teams will be caught off-guard. They may send mixed messages, potentially confusing customers and reducing their confidence in your business’s ability to handle things.
3. Review Advertising and Pause Scheduled Posts
Your crisis communication plan should include guidance on scheduled posts and pre-existing ad campaigns. In most cases, your marketing team should temporarily stop scheduled posts and consider pausing current campaigns.
This doesn’t mean you have to bring your advertising to a dead stop. In many cases, it’s not a bad idea to finish current ad campaigns during a crisis. However, posting content that was written before can give the impression that your business isn’t taking the issue seriously — even if the content had been scheduled months in advance. A quick pause and review of upcoming content can help avoid any gaffes that may hurt your company’s reputation
4. Identify All Possible Crises
Focus on the crises most likely to impact your business, but also consider less likely possibilities.
Some things can’t be planned for — like a disease disrupting the workforce or supply chain — and staff may have to think on their feet to respond.
Other crises are easier to see coming. An oceanside facility will be particularly vulnerable to weather events like flooding and hurricanes. Every business can be susceptible to personnel and product crises where a staff member is caught acting unethically or a defective or harmful product makes it to market. Service interruptions and data breaches can also happen to any company — although they are more likely to impact those that provide digital services or rely on cloud-based platforms.
Determine the impact that each of these crises could have on your business and then begin to investigate how you could mitigate them.
5. Crisis Management Can Be Proactive
You don’t have to wait for a crisis to come to you. Your management plans can include proactive steps — like strengthening digital security, preparing a facility for extreme weather or improving product traceability — that help reduce risks. It may also be worth integrating your crisis management and risk management planning.
6. Include Regular Training
Contingency and crisis management plans are essential in preventing organizational panic — but they’ll work best if employees at all levels are familiar with them and can carry out protocols as quickly as possible. Regular training is the best way to ensure employees know the plan in and out and can follow through.
7. Establish Early Warning Signs
Your plan should also train workers on how to know if a crisis is coming. Where possible, you can identify signs you may need to act soon — like liquidity issues that may suggest financial distress. Including these will help staff sound the alarm, helping your business respond faster than it would have otherwise.
8. Know Your Legal Responsibilities
Your response plan should also help your staff follow any necessary regulations or legal requirements related to a crisis. For example, a tech company that suffers a data breach may be required to report it to the government and notify affected customers within a certain timeframe.
When you build your crisis communication plan, it should include contact information for regulators your employees will need to be in touch with. It should also spell out what kind of information — like how long you’ve known about the problem and what impact you expect it to have — must be included.
9. Keep Your Plans Fresh
New threats crop up, company knowledge deepens and business workflows change over time. A plan that is a few years old may be totally irrelevant by the time it’s put in use, so updates are critical in keeping a company ready. Every so often, your crisis management team should revisit their plans and look for new potential crises, as well as ways to update your business’s response.
Managing a Crisis With the Right Planning
At some point, even the most prepared business will probably face a crisis. Fortunately, with the right planning, it’s possible to manage even the worst of it.
Businesses developing a crisis management plan will want to make sure they cover the basics. A good strategy will include protocols for critical staff and communications. It will also identify all possible issues your business may face and work out how you can respond. With the right policies in place, you can see the early warning signs to determine if a crisis is coming.
Lexie is a web designer and digital nomad. She loves hanging out at flea markets and taking her goldendoodle on hikes. Follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner and check out her design blog, Design Roast.