Tips On Crisis Management
Nov 02, 2022
No company can fully anticipate a crisis, but a company that is prepared for one will be ready to handle it and mitigate the damage it may cause. The following advice seeks to give your company some guidance about how to prepare for a crisis and how to respond to it once it occurs. We’ve divided this process into three phases: preparation, maintenance and response.
Laying the Groundwork
Perhaps the most important step is to first create a Crisis Management Team (CMT). Unless your company is quite small, you will a group of people to prepare for a crisis and coordinate effective action when it occurs. The CMT should be composed of core members who represent the different divisions of your business.
The CMT should have clear guidelines about its purpose and course of action. These crisis management guidelines can be discussed by the CMT beforehand during a preliminary meeting, or they can be determined by upper management. In any case, these guidelines should be set out in writing.
Once the CMT is set up and the team understands the guidelines to be followed, it is time to evaluate the risks facing your organization. It will be important for each team member to speak freely about the potential risks they anticipate for their division. Make sure no one downplays anyone else’s ideas or suggestions during this time. It is crucial for your team to be able to think outside the box. The CMT should try to create an exhaustive list of these risks and then organize them into categories.
It will also be useful for the team to explore different scenarios and possible outcomes for the crisis at hand, including worst-case scenarios. Don’t shy away from considering scenarios that may seem far-fetched. If the scenario is completely unlikely, it will soon come out through group discussion. The important thing is to allow your team to think freely so that they can anticipate as many issues as possible.
Once you’ve created a list of risks and potential scenarios, it’s time to prepare a detailed response guide. Try to be as detailed as possible so that ambiguity and possible misunderstandings are kept at a minimum. The ideal is to have a clear response plan for company members to follow in a time of crisis. This will help everyone involved to keep their cool, avoid mistakes and make better decisions.
Once you’ve created an adequate crisis management guide, it may be tempting to think that the majority of the work is done and your company is now ready to face a crisis. This would be a mistake. Your response guide will need careful maintenance to make sure that it stays up to date. It will also have to be tested regularly through crisis simulations to see if it can respond to real-world events.
Both maintenance and testing can be performed at intervals of your choosing. For example, you may want to review the crisis response guide every 6 months and perform crisis simulations every year. In order to review the response guide, plan to have each CMT member gather information from their departments or sectors in the lead up to the review so that you make revisions based on your company’s current situation.
Although you will have taken every step to avoid a crisis, one day, it will occur. If you’ve set-up a CMT, created a crisis response guide, maintained it and tested it, your company will feel much more prepared and, more importantly, much less anxious about how to respond to the crisis. That being said, how your company behaves during the response phase is the most important determiner of success. Apart from following your response guide, there are important elements to keep in mind.
The act of preparing and maintaining a proper response guide will surely prepare your company to respond to a crisis, but it will not provide you with a perfect or clear-cut solution for the particular situation you will face. That’s why you should see your response guide as a starting point and a guardrail for your crisis response. Based on this guide, your CMT will have to craft a response which corresponds to the facts on the ground. Your CMT should also remain adaptive as the situation evolves and not feel constrained by the guidelines.
As a crisis unfolds, your company may risk losing control of the situation if you do not respond promptly. Without being careless, your response should be marked by urgency. A rapid response will allow your company to take control of the narrative, to calm the fears of your employees and stakeholders and to prevent the situation from escalating.
Facts are your friends. Whether in crafting your response or in presenting it to the public, your actions should be grounded in a solid understanding of the facts. Make sure that your CMT maintains a proper understanding of the facts as events unfold. You can avoid devastating missteps by doing so. Staying grounded in the facts also means you should avoid emotional or catastrophic thinking. Remain focused on what has occurred and what your company is able to do to respond.
One of the worst things that can happen to your response strategy is for the public to perceive some sort of dishonesty on the part of your company. People often assume that when a company goes through a crisis, they will try to cover up their wrongdoing. For that reason, it’s important for your public statements to be unimpeachable. A good way to do this is to present facts in a dispassionate matter. This does not mean that you cannot show empathy or that you have to go into painstaking detail about your company’s missteps. But showing an objective understanding of the situation and a rational response to the facts will serve to build trust in the public’s eyes.
Often, a crisis will involve some type of fault committed by someone inside the company, or by the company itself. In these cases, remember to be transparent. Completely avoiding responsibility may seem like a good idea in the short term, but it will certainly backfire. You may lose the trust of the public and of your stakeholders. Get input from your legal team on the way to show accountability and openness to collaborate with public authorities without surrendering your legal rights. Your legal team can also advise you on an appropriate way to express empathy or an apology towards the people impacted by the fault. Your company should also be the first one to present any bad news. You don’t want your company to be “caught” by a journalist or report which unmasks the severity of the situation. The damage to your reputation will be less severe if you take control of bad information.
If your company requires strategic and legal assistance in a time of crisis, please contact us here. Our team of experts would be glad to help you navigate this difficult situation.
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