With risks to companies and employees growing, sometimes the unthinkable happens and a business has a real crisis on its hands.
While large companies are usually well-prepared for a crisis should one occur, most small and mid-sized firms don’t have the resources or have not put much thought into how they would handle a crisis.
One of the most difficult parts of crisis planning is that you will often not know what you are planning for as a crisis could be a number of different events, like:
- The sudden death of a key member of your team could lead to operational issues.
- A defective product leads to an injury, illness – or worse.
- An accident severely maims or kills a number of your workers.
To get started, assemble a team that includes key members from your organization who will be responsible for creating your crisis-response plan. Inc. Magazine recommends the following for your team:
Make a plan – You cannot start planning without first identifying your objectives. Once you identify them, you can make response plans for each type of event. Typically, that includes:
- Safeguarding any person (employee, vendor, customer and/or the public) who may be affected by the crisis. Your plan would include how to respond to the crisis if people’s health and wellness at stake.
- Making sure the organization survives. This would include steps you would take to ensure the company can continue as a going concern after a significant disruption.
- Keeping stakeholders (employees, vendors, clients, the public and government) informed on developments.
The plan should take into account how a crisis would affect your main stakeholders:
- Your employees
- Your customers
- Your vendors
- The public
- Your company’s value and reputation.
Create a succession plan – You should clearly outline the necessary steps to follow if you or one of your key managers suddenly became unable to perform their duties. This plan may include selling the company, or transferring ownership to family members or key employees.
Seek advice from the experts – This includes your leadership team, employees, customers, communications experts, investment bankers, exit planners, lawyers and financial managers. Each of these individuals has unique insights that can be invaluable for how to tackle a crisis.
Name a spokesperson – This is important if you have a crisis that spreads beyond your organization and affects the health and safety of a member of the general public, your staff or customers. This kind of crisis could attract media coverage and your organization needs to be ready to respond if that happens.
Funneling all media communications through a spokesperson can help you deliver a clear and consistent message to media, as well as to the public at large.
Honesty is the best policy – Lie or hide details at your own risk. A lack of honesty and transparency can lead to rumors, as well as a general distrust of your organization if the truth is exposed. The best approach is to be transparent and truthful about what happened and what you are doing to resolve the crisis.
Keep your staff up to speed – Besides transparency with outside people, it’s crucial that you don’t keep your employees in the dark after a crisis has hit. Again, to stop the rumor mill and also keep employees from becoming worried amidst the uncertainty, keep your workers abreast of developments – and what the crisis means for the organization, and what you are doing about it. Put together a plan for keeping staff up to date.
Keep customers and suppliers informed – If you have an event that’s causing some disruptions, you also owe it to your clients and vendors to let them know what’s happening. Don’t let them find out from the media. Like your employees, keep them regularly updated on events and the steps you are taking to address the crisis. Put together a plan for how you would keep them posted.
Act fast and update regularly – Keeping the communications alive is important and once you grasp the situation and its effects, you can issue summary statements of the crisis and what’s happened. Then you can follow up with regular updates on your action plans, on people affected, any hotline you may set up, and more.
These days news travels fast and like wildfire on social media. You need to move at the same pace.
Social media is vital – More and more people get their news from social media and the discussions that ensue on posts, so you need to make sure that your company stays on top of the flow. You may want to assign a person or two to monitor social media and post and react to posts on social media. That way, your team can tell the company’s side of the story and put to rest unfounded rumors.
Make a plan for what a social media contact’s responsibilities would be during a crisis.
Get an early start
Your plan won’t be effective if you create it during a crisis. Plan in advance, so everyone can approach the strategizing unrushed and with a clear head.