Crisis management is critical for any organization. Between 2014-2019, 69% of leaders stated they experienced at least one crisis, with the average number being three. Unfortunately, dealing with a crisis is a likely occurrence.
How you respond to a situation like this can make or break your company’s reputation and bottom line. Here are the five most essential tips for handling crises smoothly and avoiding catastrophe.
The 3 Stages of Crisis Management
Before we jump into the best crisis management strategies you’ll need, let’s discuss the three stages of crisis management. While the second stage is arguably the most important, your team needs to understand all three to be as prepared as possible.
Ideally, your company doesn’t experience a crisis. Although unlikely, you’ll need to do what you can to minimize the occurrences of blunders by doing the following:
- Create a crisis management plan in advance (more on that later)
- Hire and train a crisis management team whose job is to handle these situations
- Hold practice exercises on managing crises, so the team is prepared for real ones
- Crisis Management (+ Response)
Crisis management is the most critical part of handling these situations; it’s at this point that you’ll begin rolling out your crisis management plan (see tip #1).
Your company releases initial messages addressing the situation, you’ll inform stakeholders, employees, and partners, and everyone will work diligently to resolve the problem at hand.
Phew, the situation is over! Although it’s tempting to celebrate, more work is yet to be done. Make sure to do the following post-crisis:
- Keep in contact with employees, partners, stakeholders, and anyone else. Remain available to answer questions.
- Dissect your crisis management plan – how did it hold up? What changes should be made?
- Were there any unexpected challenges? How can we best prepare for those next time?
- Are there any questions we didn’t address?
Top 5 Crisis Management Tips You Need
Now that you understand the three phases of a crisis, it’s time to look at the top 5 crisis management strategies you need to smooth over the situation quickly.
1. Have a Crisis Management Plan… Before You Need One
We’ve talked a lot about having a crisis management plan, and its importance can’t be understated.
Shockingly, 29% of companies that suffered a major crisis between 2014-2019 didn’t have staff dedicated to preparing or responding to those types of situations. A poorly handled crisis can cause a significant dent in your bottom line, so don’t be caught unprepared.
Here are the steps you’ll need to follow to build a crisis management plan:
- Risk assessment. Identify all potential crises your organization could face by listing your vulnerabilities and threats. These can include product recalls, cyberattacks, public relations errors, workplace human resource challenges, and more.
- Business impact. Based on all possible crises you’ve identified, determine each one’s business impact. These can include metrics such as costs, fines, damaged reputation, customer attrition, and more.
- Determine action steps. In response to the crises and business impacts above, what actions can your business take? Who will be involved, and what resources will be required?
- Build your plan. Based on the previous steps, you’re in a position to develop resolution plans for all crises identified. This includes timeline, resources and people needed, how you’ll address customers and stakeholders, crisis prevention, and more.
- Revisit the plan often. Businesses evolve, and so do crisis management plans. Before it’s too late and they’re outdated, revisit and update these plans often.
- Train everyone involved. You don’t want any player to be unprepared during a crisis.
2. Be Transparent
It’s incredibly challenging to take ownership of our mistakes, especially in the face of public scrutiny. However, nothing results in worse media coverage than being shifty and dodging responsibility when your company’s made a mistake.
First, take responsibility for your actions as soon as you realize there’s been a problem. Provide an initial message within the first hour after the crisis. You should be using templates built into your crisis management plan to do this efficiently.
Here’s the thing: if you don’t put out a message, other people will comment on your behalf. That can lead to significant negative press. When you provide information, make it entirely accurate and correct any mistakes that are made.
3. Figure Out Who’s Involved
A central part of any crisis management plan is figuring out who’s involved in handling these situations. Your company needs to present itself as a united front with one voice; this means identifying a spokesperson who regularly answers questions and shares information.
However, that doesn’t mean the spokesperson is the only one deciding what information to release. An entire team should be dedicated to releasing new information, including public relations, social media, and crisis management personnel.
Key players must be identified before any crisis occurs.
4. Update Frequently
You’ve updated within the first hour; great! However, that’s only the beginning. The team you’ve dedicated to crisis management should be updating news outlets and the public as early and often as possible; if you don’t, rumors can get the better of your company.
People are consuming news around the clock, and the advent of social media makes it easy to provide updates. News outlets will be releasing information around the clock, and so should you. Whenever there’s an update, give it immediately.
5. Keep Employees and Customers Informed
While updating the public is essential, you need to keep your employees, customers, stakeholders, and anyone else internal informed. If these people learn about the crisis through social media or news outlets, they can lose trust and potentially leave the company.
You owe it to your internal team to keep them informed from the start.
The Best Way to Handle a Crisis?
Prevent them from happening in the first place. You can limit the odds of a significant crisis by hiring the best leadership team possible.
Jennings Executive specializes in a select few industries and brings over two decades of experience to the executive recruiting game. We’ll help you find the best executives possible who prevent crises before they occur. Learn more today.
However, should your company face a challenging situation, the 5 tips above will help you with crisis management. Handle the problem quickly and effectively, and you’ll recover just fine!