Staying one step ahead is key for crisis management.
Waiting for the fallout to hit during a crisis can – and will – damage your business, your brand and you as an individual.
Reputational crisis response
At Igniyte of course, we’re all about reputation crisis response. Or better yet, working with our clients to proactively anticipate a future crisis and effectively manage it.
While some business owners may relegate an organisation’s response to online reputation damage to the bottom of the pile, the potential risks say otherwise.
Crisis management is necessary for all kinds of reasons – the global pandemic has shown us all what happens when we’re unprepared.
And a reputational crisis can have just as much of a negative impact as other types of crisis, such as supply chain problems or a cyberattack.
Creating a crisis management plan
Whatever the crisis happens to be, there has to be an effective crisis management plan in place.
As we’ve touched on, the crisis facing a business could be in the form of natural disasters, workplace violence, negative media coverage, a financial crisis or it could be an organizational crisis.
Either way, the crisis situation has to be dealt with. And prevention is always better than cure.
Crisis management methods should ensure the organisation is ready for all crisis scenarios.
Crisis events differ across different sectors
A crisis management plan must take into account the types of potential crises that may occur depending on the organisation’s sector.
For example, in manufacturing, a crisis could be defined as an unexpected event that could harm the health of employees.
However, a corporate crisis could involve negative media content impacting the organisation’s reputation – or that of its CEO.
Crisis response – what do organisations need to be effective?
How an organisation reacts to a crisis depends on may factors:
- Whether they’re prepared before a crisis hits.
- The crisis management tools at their disposal.
- The size and scale of the operations.
- Whether they have a crisis manager or crisis management team in place.
- The financial viability of a crisis management strategy.
Where should crisis management teams begin?
Crisis management starts way before a direct crisis response is necessary.
It’s all in the planning. Having a crisis management process in place, ideally led by a crisis management team from across an organisation is the best way to start.
There is so much about crisis management that reflects on the business itself. How the leadership communicate crisis management plans and how senior management prepare for a potential technological crisis, corporate crisis or any future crisis situations.
Is crisis management fiscally responsible?
In a word, yes. Having a crisis management plan or crisis management strategy in place saves an organisation money when the trouble hits.
In 2019, a PwC global survey on crisis response showed that organisations that had a crisis management plan in place emerged much stronger than those that didn’t.
The crisis management process is about ensuring continuity, regardless of the external situation.
This means formulating a crisis response plan that includes crisis communication tools.
Who should be responsible for a crisis management plan?
This is where effective crisis communication comes into play. Every employee should feel a sense of responsibility for their part in a crisis management process.
Every department and employee, as well as the crisis manager, CEO, executive management and crisis management team are responsible for the implementation of a successful crisis management plan.
And while the crisis response may need to be different in the face of a natural disaster compared with a reputational crisis impacting an organisation’s operations, the end goal is the same.
A response strategy should be about business recovery efforts and moving towards normal operations as smoothly and swiftly as possible.
Steps a crisis management team should take in creating a plan
Should a crisis situation occur and there is no crisis response team in place, then it’s about emergency mitigation.
For example, let’s say that a story about poor customer service gains traction on social media. Before you know it, your organisation’s reputation is being annihilated and it’s a public relations disaster.
This is where a PR incident response team may sweep in to clean up industry news and work on general public relations as a direct response to the crisis phase.
And while this can still be useful when any crisis strikes, imagine how much better off your organisation would have been with some contingency planning.
Here are some steps that a crisis management team can take to mitigate the need for panic if and when a crisis hits.
Risk management – assess potential threats
The first step to create a crisis management strategy that will work in the long-term is to take the time to carry out some risk management assessment.
This can be led by the crisis manager, wider crisis management teams, human resources or other key stakeholders.
Risk assessment is an important starting point in order to properly and logically assess the types of crisis situation that may hit your business.
Identify potential crisis situation
Crisis management plans must be formulated depending on various factors.
These include your industry sector, where you’re located, the likelihood of natural disasters, the potential for a major crisis impacting you and how much coverage you have in the media.
Public relations can be either a major part of a business, or play very little role in day to day business.
This depends on the organisation’s size, status and sector, and how much it’s likely to hit the headlines.
For example, management misconduct at a major financial firm is likely to gain much more traction than a much smaller business.
However, it’s important for all sizes of company to be ready for a potential crisis, whether it’s a technology failure or something that will impact your social media strategy.
Identify early warning signals before a crisis strikes
The global pandemic has shown us all the importance of a crisis plan. But it’s not possible or feasible for a crisis response team to be ready for every possible eventuality.
So, the next step is to create a crisis management model by assessing the likelihood of each threat that has been identified.
Next, use risk analysis to identify the kinds of warning signs or red flags that may indicate that a crisis situation is imminent.
Questions team members can ask during risk assessment
Crisis team members can work together to ask the following questions to ascertain the threat level.
- What kind of possible threats would impact team members in delivering a service or product?
- What threats could create a crisis situation for employees?
- How vulnerable is your organization to these threats? Go through them one by one and consider the different impact of an actual crisis involving a natural disaster and one that involves public relations.
- Does your organization have any kind of crisis management plan in place that you can build on?
- Is there a system in place for risk assessment of a crisis phase?
- What is the business impact analysis when a crisis occurs?
Put together the crisis management plan
The next step is for the crisis team to create the plan itself.
According to PwC’s global study, there are three main factors driving a successful crisis management plan:
- Crisis preparedness.
- An effective crisis communication plan.
- Knowledge-related practical approach.
Think of the crisis management plan as a guide to navigating through different impacts of a crisis.
The plan must also specify who is responsible for each part of the plan.
Crisis management plans and the crisis team
While a team leader or business leader must initially lead the charge, any effective crisis management plan should be delegated among the specially formulated crisis team.
To kickstart this process, assign responsibilities across the team to gather information and, when necessary, oversee responses.
All of this should be carried out only with factual and credible sources.
It’s important to include resources for external expertise and legal advice. This must form part of effective crisis management strategies.
Create and implement crisis communication strategies
This applies to both internal and external crisis communication.
Responsibilities, routes and tools for crisis communication should be clearly established and shared.
For a crisis management plan to work well, it’s vital to inform employees and create an effective crisis communication plan.
External communications can be disseminated partly through social media, and by working with regulatory agencies, stakeholders, members of the public and the media where necessary.
Create a detailed crisis management for each identified possibility
When you first identified the crises that may impact your organisation, these findings should inform the basis of the crisis management plan.
Each potential problem should have its own crisis plan, with specific actionable steps to take.
None of the crisis plan strategies should negatively impact either employees or the product or service.
Crisis teams should also be given clear key performance indicators (KPIs) for each plan.
By setting evaluation measures for the plan, it will be possible post crisis to analyse its effectiveness.
Ensuring post crisis business continuity
While ensuring there is a crisis management plan in place is the first step, it’s not the only step that’s necessary within crisis management.
The crisis management plan is there to ensure that an organisation can respond as quickly as possible to a crisis.
There must also be a business continuity plan in place to ensure that operations continue both during and after the incident or crisis.
This means identifying recovery plans and ongoing crisis management mitigation strategies.
Working together: crisis management and business continuity
Both of these strategies should work together. Crisis management alone isn’t enough – it must be backed up with a business continuity plan.
Organisations must be cognizant of the types of threats that face them in 2022.
We now know that natural disasters, such as a global pandemic, are not problems for sometime in the future – they’re here now.
We also know that organizations can emerge from times of crisis strongly. A crisis management plan can ensure that your business does just that.
Crisis management for business and individual reputations
At Igniyte, we deal with specific crisis management connected to reputation. This may not sound as impactful as, let’s say, a financial crisis or a technological meltdown, but it can be just as damaging – if not more so.
A social media viral campaign or a public relations disaster can quickly spiral into a problem that damages reputations in the long term.
Factoring this into crisis management is the best way to ensure that your business is ready for anything.