While most large organisations will generally have a crisis management plan in place, smaller companies might often tend to ignore crisis management planning. It’s often only after a crisis that you will realise the value of a crisis management plan. During the crisis you’ll be too concerned with firefighting the problems and issues.
Generating a crisis management plan doesn’t have to be a cumbersome project. In fact a more concise and clear plan will prove more effect in the heat of an issue. Many of us don’t work for organizations that will ever have a crisis quite like the global giant BP recently faced, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be ready to handle a negative situation that might come our way. The more efficiently you address a crisis that hits your company, the less damage will be inflicted on your business. Having a set plan in place will help significantly.
Here are some quick tips on how to develop your crisis communication plan:
- Identify areas of vulnerability/ draft some possible scenarios that would damage your company (examples: a product recall, accident at work, an employee does something illegal, etc.) – keep them realistic.
- Develop a clear action plan that best addresses these scenarios. A chain of actions that would best repair the situation and alleviate damage.
- Develop the crisis team – decide who specifically needs to be involved with your action plans. Create a chain of command in case someone is unavailable. All members of your team should be aware of the role they will fulfil.
- Simulate the scenarios and the action plan. For each scenario, go through the steps of the action plan, with each team member fulfilling their role
- Finally, learn from experience
And when things go wrong, as they do, keep three things clear. Find out what happened, why it happened and communicate what you are doing about it. The days of covering up are gone and the use of covert language or carefully crafted statements simply don’t wash. Companies, small or large, always need to face up to their responsibilities and one of them is to communicate effectively in a crisis.
Keep in mind that the nature of a crisis is that it will happen when you least expect it and it may take the form of an issue that you haven’t accounted for in your crisis plan. But with the correct systems and procedures in place you will be best placed to deal with it in an effective manner. Most importantly, conduct your business and procedures in a manner which will avoid putting you in danger in the first place. As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently”. That’s good advice.