Crisis Management for Businesses – What You Can Learn (and Throw Away) from What You See in the News

There seems to be no shortage of crises in the world today, many of which have every single detail played out in the media nearly 24/7. This can make crisis management even more difficult than it normally is and make errors in the process glaringly obvious.

How many times lately have you found yourself wincing as the prominent players in these crises have had to recant past statements or admit mistakes that seem to demonstrate brutal incompetence? Of course, most of the time these are very competent people—most of the time. It is just their inability to manage or effectively communicate in times of crisis that is lacking.

The primary failure of businesses or organizations in relation to crisis management is not having a crisis management plan.

As with anything, having a good crisis management plan before there is a need for it, is key.

This is especially true if you’re in charge of – or run – a business or organization. Of course, it’s hard to plan for every potential scenario. There are just some situations you don’t ever think you will experience, be in, or certainly, be responsible for handling. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the best way to mitigate a crisis, is to expect it.

In creating your crisis management plan:

Think about crises you could – even remotely – potentially see happening to, in, or near your business. Imagine worst-case scenarios that could go wrong in your daily activities. For example, could you:

  • Experience a data breach?
  • Experience theft or vandalism?
  • Have a 911 emergency like a fire or injury?
  • Lose power, water, phone, etc?
  • Lose an important company player?
  • Incidence of disease or illness?
  • Fail or disappoint a customer or group of customers somehow?
  • Lose a major client or account?
  • Have an accident happen at or near your business?
  • Not be able to gain access to your business (whether digitally or physically)?
  • Fall victim of a tertiary crisis—where a crisis of another affects your business?
  • Experience a natural disaster?
  • Be impacted by a terrorist attack?

Consider how you would react in each scenario.

  • What would you do immediately to mitigate damage?
  • Who would you talk to?
  • What actions, specifically, would you take?
  • Would you issue a statement?
  • What would you say?
  • How much information would you give?
  • What would you not say?
  • Why?
  • What mid- and short-term actions do you believe you would take?
  • What would your ongoing message be about the crisis?
  • What would you hope for as the result or outcome?

 

Decide how you should react in each scenario. Consider all of the above questions for how you would react and correct them now, when you are calm, for how you should react. Also think about:

  • Who will “speak” for your company in the aftermath of the crisis?
  • What will the message be?
  • Is there anyone you could – or should – bring in to help you manage the crisis?
  • When is a crisis “bad enough” that you would need outside help?
  • Who could provide that help?
  • Who will contact them?
  • When?

Once you have considered all the above, put it in writing! Even the best-laid plan will do your business little to no good if it’s only in your head. What if the crisis happens to you, for example? Be sure to turn all your thoughts into a real, executable, roadmap that can be followed by anyone who has it. Then, make sure others know about the plan—where it is and when it should be put into action.

While all of this may sound like much-ado-about-nothing, you just never know what might happen. And with crisis management, the best defense is definitely a good offense. Your crisis management plan is something you may never (hopefully) need but if you do, having it will be priceless.