Sooner or later, every company experiences a crisis that threatens its reputation and revenue, which are of course inextricably linked. For the uninitiated, the experience can be truly terrifying.
In crisis management, as in much else, fortune favors the prepared. Before you get in over your head, follow this crisis management roadmap.
Lay the Groundwork with a Transparent Corporate Culture
While your company’s next crisis remains a gleam in fate’s eye, lay the groundwork for your response with a transparent, forthright corporate culture that respects your employees and stakeholders. The more information you share, the better.
“Understanding that employees want to feel they contribute to their company’s success, it is key that employees be exposed to the company’s strategic goals and objectives,” said Lovell Communications president Rosemary Plorin in a recent Inc. interview.
“Employees understand that a company wants to make money and be successful, so helping employees understand how they contribute to that success is key,” she added. When employees feel like they have a stake in the company’s success, they’ll put in more effort, protect its quality and defend its reputation when their assistance is needed most.”
Don’t Put Off Planning Until the Crisis Hits
Using an outside consultant if necessary, draw up a comprehensive crisis management plan that outlines how you will manage an issue, what kind of resources you will need and who will be in charge of the response. Speed is of the essence: When the first hint of an impending crisis appears, you need to be ready to flip the switch and go into damage control mode before things get out of control.
Keep Your Cool
When the inevitable crisis hits, you and your team absolutely cannot lose your cool. An off-balance, erratic or outright combative response can undo months or years of careful planning in an instant.
This is easier said than done, to be sure. If you don’t already practice meditation, now might be a good time to get in the habit.
Express Empathy for the Adversely Affected
Depending on the nature of the crisis, you may find yourself with a cohort of adversely affected individuals, families, or vendors—victims, for lack of a better word. It’s absolutely critical that your crisis response evince empathy and solidarity with these people or companies, even if doing so is personally embarrassing. It’s even more critical that you deliver this empathy without a corresponding admission of fault or guilt unless your crisis communications plan specifically directs your point people to do so. Once an admission of guilt is out there, it can’t be taken back, and it can have tremendous consequences for your finances and reputation.
Tap Professionals for Serious Crises
Everyone has limits. Your internal communications team and management structure may be perfectly capable of handling humdrum hiccups but wholly outmatched by severe and immediate threats to your company’s solvency or reputation. Whether you’re facing a digital crisis the likes of which you’ve never seen, or a serious regulatory issue that threatens your entire business model, you need to quickly recognize when you’re out of your league.
You then need to bring in crisis management professionals capable of handling the specific type of crisis you’re facing. Like the rest of your crisis management plan, this eventuality needs to be accounted for before crunch time, meaning any outside consultants need to be familiar with your company and briefed on your internal response apparatus before they arrive on-site.