The Recipe for Surviving a Crisis
It seems that not a day goes by that we don’t hear of at least one organization, business or individual experiencing a crisis. In today’s world of social sharing and 24-hours news coverage, very few crises stay under the radar of public scrutiny.
While an astute leader who has his or her pulse on the actions and sentiments of employees, donors and environment can prepare for some crises, many hit without warning. No matter the timing, few leaders embrace a crisis as a welcome distraction from their ongoing mission.
While you may not have experienced a crisis, that is no reason to believe you are immune. Crisis happens.
Thankfully, there is something you can do to help mitigate the impact and be prepared to positively pivot from the negative to the positive.
Planning for the Unknown
Every entity in the public square must expect a crisis to happen at some point in time. One of the key distinctives of organizations that survive a crisis is preparation. Having a crisis plan ready to enact can be the difference between forfeiting or sustaining your organization’s mission.
When a crisis occurs, it is important that you take initiative, and minimize the risks of being forced into a reactive position. Getting in front of a potentially damaging story is the best way to manage it when it happens.
This requires planning ahead by developing a comprehensive crisis communications/reputation management plan that includes short- and long-term strategies addressing both internal and external audiences.
The Recipe for Survival
Putting together a crisis communications plan requires research and collaboration. There is no doubt that it is a time-consuming process, but one that is well worth the effort in the end.
Preparing a comprehensive crisis plan requires leadership focus and buy-in, delegation, communication expertise, teamwork and a complete analysis of capabilities, risks, and priorities. As you walk through this, it is vital to have these essential ingredients:
1. Assess your capabilities.
This includes analyzing the adequacy of internal resources or whether outside consultation is needed. While some are hesitant to bring in an agency or specialist to help consult on crisis action plans, this simple step can help an organization avoid insular thinking and assist in contemplating ramifications of considered actions, which are often not seen by those within the organization.
2. Appoint a crisis management team.
This team should be made up of individuals capable of defining and implementing strategic pro-active and reactive communications options and actions.
3. Review potential crisis scenarios.
Think through EVERYTHING – natural disasters, shootings, employment issues, HR issues, moral failures, changing laws, you name it. No matter how big or small the impact may be, put them all down on paper.
4. Determine crisis action steps.
While you may not know all the details of a specific crisis until it happens, you can make some educated guesses on each scenario. What information do you need? How will you get your information? Who needs to know the information? How will you disseminate your information? With whom will you share information?
5. Assess and prioritize ongoing issues management.
Prior to a crisis, your plan should be assessed quarterly. Gather your crisis management team and review the plan to ensure it is up to date and to refresh each of the steps necessary. Further, once you have successfully managed a crisis, conduct a SWOT analysis to determine what worked well and what could have been done better. Then, revise your crisis plan accordingly.
Crisis planning is no easy task, but it will be a lifesaver when a crisis hits.
While each crisis is unique, actions planned in advance as much as possible can minimize irreparable damage. Through proper planning and quick, decisive action during a crisis, your organization can incur far less damage to its respective reputations, and even turn the crisis to a collective advantage from a public perception.