From data breaches to product recalls, allegations of corporate mismanagement or employees going rogue, it’s impossible to turn on the news without seeing the latest report of a business in crisis.
24 hour news and the dominance of social media has heightened media and public expectations. Businesses are expected to act faster and more transparently than ever before. Whilst connectivity and public interest drives increased scrutiny from media, stakeholders, regulators and the public alike.
Knowing in advance how you’re going to handle a crisis has never been more important.
As we look ahead to a new year, our Head of Crisis Communications Victoria Ross shares five key considerations to help you strengthen your crisis preparedness:
- How does your business define a crisis? – A crisis is an incident that falls outside of normal business continuity. It may threaten the safety of your people or the environment or your financial viability. Resolving it requires a strategic response and the deployment of additional resources. But business continuity does not mean the same to every business. What one business considers a crisis, another may consider business as usual. Codifying how you define a crisis and when you will activate a crisis response is vital to effectively managing a crisis.
- How do you mitigate risks? – Do you have a process for assessing and prioritising risks? As odd as it sounds, many crises can be anticipated. Generally a crisis is caused by one of three factors. It can be issues driven – often something you’ve known about for some time but failed to adequately anticipate or prepare for. New regulations, legislation, or public pressure all fall into this category. It can be incident driven – for example, product recalls, failure of key processes, cases of fraud or mismanagement. Or it can be caused by external factors – incidents affecting customers or suppliers, extreme weather events such as floods or terrorist incidents. In each case, regularly and comprehensively assessing risks across your business, allows you to put effective mitigation strategies in place.
- Have you planned a response? – By its very nature a crisis is unanticipated and it would be impractical to plan a crisis response for every scenario. But ensuring you have an agreed way of working helps to make sure that should a crisis occur, you are able to agree and activate your response in a timely manner. A good crisis plan doesn’t need to be long – in fact often the shorter and more user friendly they are the better – but it should include key policies and processes. Checklists of actions to take in the initial stages of a crisis can be particularly useful and help ensure key actions aren’t missed. Template resources – such as agendas for meetings and conference calls, action logs, call logs and template communication statements – all save valuable time. Login details or information on who to contact to update your company website and social media channels are also invaluable.
- Who delivers this response? – Clear roles and responsibilities should be agreed in advance and included in your plans. Importantly, make sure that individuals are aware of their roles and responsibilities. It’s surprising how many organisations have very detailed roles and responsibilities for their crisis response team but have failed to explain to individuals what is expected of them. Also, find a way of reminding your team regularly in case people have moved to new roles. And, because crises can occur when people are on holiday (and often do!), make sure you have identified deputies.
- Have you tested it works? – A crisis is a daunting and uncomfortable experience as it is. Having to learn the ropes in the middle of it all won’t make it any easier. Investing time in coaching your team in advance, ensuring they fully understand their roles and responsibilities and have a chance to deliver their role in a safe space will pay dividends. Look for opportunities to exercise your plan against likely scenarios. Even the most detailed or extensive plans can overlook key considerations which only become apparent once tested.
You can read more about our crisis management products and services here.
To discuss your crisis preparedness needs or find out more about our work helping companies to assess, strengthen and validate their crisis management procedures please get in touch.