By |2019-06-17T12:34:55+00:00April 30th, 2019|0 Comments

10 Tips to Ensure Crisis Readiness in the 21st Century

Even the casual observer will arrive at the conclusion that in 2019, adversity affects organizations daily no matter their size, geographical footprint, or mission. We have only to look at the news headlines regarding crises of varying types and magnitude that are happening in real time around the globe. Indeed, now more than ever, it is not a matter of “if” an organization will experience a crisis. It is a matter of “when,” “where,” “how” and “why” one will occur and what the impact will be.

Is your organization ready to protect brand equity, reputation and the bottom line in the face of a crisis? This could for instance be an accident, cyberattack, damaging social media content, natural disaster, criminal conduct, or product failure. The list of potential crisis scenarios is almost endless. 

Since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, many companies in the United States and beyond have developed crisis management and business continuity plans aimed at keeping the doors open in the event of terrorism or weather-related incidents. However, a lot of companies remain unprepared to manage the broad spectrum of crises that could occur. Thorough planning is crucial for any company and its employees to effectively prepare for, respond to, and recover and learn from crises that jeopardize organizational success.

Here are 10 tips for optimizing crisis readiness.

  1. Safeguard reputation: Protecting your organization’s reputation must be the foundation of your crisis management approach. Embrace your value proposition and culture, and ensure that it is front and center in your strategy. Your mission, core values and tenets for success should be the consistent threads of all crisis readiness and crisis response related activities.
  1. Know your stakeholders: Identify all stakeholders with whom your organization interacts internally and externally, long before crisis hits. Be mindful not to overlook any stakeholder’s attitudes, expectations, actions, and needs, particularly when it comes to communications during and following a sudden or smoldering crisis.
  1. Plan your work, work your plan: There are several key components of a well-crafted crisis management plan, as well as the plans feeding into it, that address decision making, operations, and communications. Plans should not be lengthy tomes. They must be functional and accessible. Ensure that employees understand how to access and use the plan, and train them well on how to follow the outlined processes and procedures. 
  1. Designate crisis response team members: Form a team of managers representing relevant functional areas including operations, human resources, communications, legal, finance, etc. Depending on the severity of the crisis, you may need to leverage all hands on deck. Make sure everyone has a seat at the table and clearly define who fills the roles of team leader, standing and backup members, and ad hoc members.
  1. Enable effective crisis leadership: As many accomplished executives have learned the hard way, leading in times of crisis is different from leading a company day-to-day. The stakes are often much higher and previously unfamiliar levels of stress are common during a crisis. However, catering to stakeholder needs and fostering trust while engaging in ethical, fact-based and timely decision-making and communication are more important than ever.
  1. Develop categories, triggers and scenarios: An effective crisis management plan ties together business continuity, emergency management, and disaster recovery efforts and explains situations and triggers for plan execution. Organize the plan so that policies, procedures and responsibilities are easily referenced by crisis category and ensure that scenario planning follows a holistic approach to cover all relevant types of crises.
  1. Live the plan: It is not enough to write a plan and put it on the shelf. Plans must be reviewed on a regular basis and sometimes updated in real time. Something as simple as taking a news headline and discussing how the team might respond can be an effective tool. Every hypothetical situation can be an opportunity to detect vulnerabilities and enhance the plan.
  1. Prioritize recurring training: Cultivate a healthy learning environment through regularly scheduled training, including tabletop crisis exercises, live and semi-live crisis drills, and scenario-based crisis communication training. This will enable team members to correctly implement response plans and procedures, develop important skills, and stay sharp. Formally establishing a company-wide crisis training schedule provides strong support for this process.
  1. Implement crisis notification and 24/7 internet and media monitoring: An effective crisis response hinges on knowing that a crisis is occurring; understanding corresponding facts, impacts and stakeholder responses; and communicating critical information to the designated internal and external stakeholders. As such, automated crisis notification and 24/7 internet and media monitoring are key components of any comprehensive crisis response strategy.  
  1. Evaluate and seize opportunities: Minimizing the negative impact of future crises is, of course, a top priority. It is therefore essential to carefully evaluate all crisis response activities during the post crisis phase. Leaders should encourage comprehensive analysis of outcomes, champion resulting organizational learning, and drive necessary change in order to seize opportunities for optimizing crisis readiness.

If your phone rings tomorrow and you are suddenly confronted with a crisis, are you and your colleagues prepared to handle it? What steps will you take to mitigate the damage to your organization? Do you and your colleagues know who is responsible for which crisis response related activity? And how comfortable are you that the organization can answer tough questions from the media and withstand potentially negative publicity?

Wherever your company is along the crisis readiness path, the planning, testing and training that occurs today will be invaluable for ensuring crisis readiness and overcoming adversity when crisis strikes.

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About the Author:

- Oliver S. Schmidt - President & CEO of C4CS, LLC (c4cs.com) - 25+ years of consulting, training, and coaching experience in crisis management, strategic communication, and leadership - Presentations, management workshops, and client work in several dozen countries - Author of numerous peer-reviewed articles about crisis management, strategic communication, and leadership topics - Interviews with various domestic and international industry and mainstream media - Guest professor at leading universities in multiple countries - LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/oliver-s-schmidt--c4cs