A product failure. An unhappy customer who takes to social media and unleashes their fury. A major hit to the company’s reputation because of something one of your employees has done.
A crisis can come out of nowhere, and when it threatens your business, your employees and your livelihood, it can cause moments of shear panic.
But once a crisis breaks out, it’s too late to plan—especially in the digital age. With the proliferation of social media, acting quickly simply isn’t fast enough. Brands need to act immediately.
The Internet’s reach not only affects the speed at which companies must respond to crises—it affects the frequency. With more platforms for customers to reach out and more methods of sharing information, it’s easier than ever for organizations to experience their 15 minutes of shame.
That’s why effective crisis management begins during the quiet times, when the engine of the business is running smoothly and the road ahead seems free of obstruction.
Consider these five steps to creating a crisis management plan for your company:
- Know Your People and Their Roles: A crisis management team should have specific members with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Tensions will be high during the acute phase of a crisis, which means people need to have clear visibility into what is expected of them and how they are contributing to the solution. Define who is leading the charge, who is supporting the leader, and who is charged with completing other critical tasks.
- Distinguish Your Platforms: Releasing a statement via Twitter in response to to a crises erupting on Facebook won’t get your message as far as you’d like. Gather an understanding of your customer base and where their online presence is based so that when a crises breaks out, you can react appropriately and be heard.
- Put Infrastructure in Place: Do you have an alternate location for your team to assemble when a crisis erupts? Does it have the right amenities to support your team? Do you have a singular place that houses contact information for key advisors, including your public relations firm, the company’s attorneys, or other key consultants? These decisions need to be made well in advance of a crisis.
- Anticipate Certain Scenarios: Every business is prone to certain types of crises. During the planning process, make a list of possible scenarios. Put yourself in the mindset of that specific crisis, and have your team consider and prepare specific response protocol that can be implemented in real time.
- Consider the Assistance of Experts: An outside consulting firm can offer objective, third-party insight and perspective on how best to help you plan for a crisis. They will likely recognize certain vulnerabilities you have not considered, and they can help map out a strategy that includes how to communicate effectively to your company’s key audiences during the crisis.
- Action Versus Contemplation: Teach your team to understand that the crisis response team will need to be action-oriented in the midst of managing a crisis. Thoughtful contemplation and debate will have a place in the midst of responding to what has happened, but swift, decisive action will be absolutely necessary if you want to weather the storm.
Many organizations feel that they cannot devote the time and resources to develop a comprehensive crisis response plan, because it will take away from normal business activities.
When a crisis does erupt, the time spent planning for it is time well spent.
Sometimes, it can mean the difference between survival and catastrophic failure.