A crisis impacting your organisation can occur at any time, and take any form – a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood, a human disaster for example a war or terrorist attack, or a cyber attack. The extent to which a crisis impacts your organisation depends on how well prepared you are, and the crisis management plans and strategies you have in place.
Effective crisis management can reduce the threat to people, property, and operations. But the value of crisis management strategies also extends to how they enable your organisation to manage the impact of the crisis on employee morale, the organisation’s reputation with customers, the public, regulators and authorities, and even other suppliers in your supply chain.
Most of the work for effective crisis management is carried out long before a crisis ever occurs – in the crisis management planning stage. In this blog we introduce the various steps you should take when building crisis management strategies, including the people and technologies you should implement to improve your outcomes.
A crisis will affect every part of the organisation, and as a result it is important that every part of the organisation is represented on the crisis management team.
The members of the crisis management team should be experts in their area, and be able to influence the crisis management strategy to address their specific area of expertise. For example, crisis management team representatives from operations must have a role in designing how operations will be resumed and in what order of priority, while legal, marketing, or account management representatives must be able to specify how communications with wider stakeholders will be managed during and after the crisis.
A crisis management strategy or crisis management plan sets out guidelines for how the organisation will address a crisis. While crises are inherently unpredictable, every second counts in the response, so it is best to be as prepared as possible ahead of time.
Effective crisis management strategies define a set of generic actions, roles, and responses that the organisation can follow in any crisis in order to limit the impact on the organisation, employees, and customers. The crisis management strategy will also specify any technology that is required for the crisis management effort, from a secure communications platform to an incident management tool.
Crisis management strategies must address five areas:
- People: How will employees be kept safe during the crisis? Do you have a way to ensure that they get important messages that help protect them?
- Infrastructure: What are your critical infrastructures? And how can you limit the impact on every level of infrastructure to limit physical damage to the organisation?
- Technology: What are your most important systems that must be restored as quickly as possible? What data or technology backups need to be in place to support this?
- Business: What are your business’s most critical processes? What do you need to have in place to limit disruption to these processes?
- Reputation: Any crisis can damage your reputation, but a badly managed crisis will cause greater damage. How can you prepare effective responses to the crisis to prevent additional damage to your reputation?
It is one thing to create a crisis management strategy in a vacuum, but the crisis won’t happen in a perfect vacuum, and things can go wrong on the day. Take a critical look at the crisis management strategies you have created to ensure that they can be properly resourced, that they cover all essential areas, and that it won’t fail because some simple detail was overlooked.
Some of the areas to evaluate the crisis management strategies against include:
- What happens if one of the key members of the crisis management team is unavailable during the crisis itself? Do they have a substitute?
- How will the crisis management team communicate with each other, company employees, or stakeholders if the main communication channels are down?
- How will the crisis management response be monitored and recorded?
- When were the crisis management strategies created? Are all elements in the plan still relevant, or are there any new considerations that should be added?
A crisis management strategy is a theoretical document, while a crisis itself is a living, breathing event. The way to bridge the gap, and to remind key employees of their roles and responsibilities is to regularly test your crisis management strategies.
Testing crisis management strategies will enable the organisation to evaluate their effectiveness, and identify any gaps or assumptions in strategies that could cause them to fail in the event. Regularly testing the plan also ensures that the crisis management team refresh their knowledge of what to do in the crisis, and ensures that the event itself isn’t the first time they have to follow the plan.
In addition, crisis management strategy testing will enable the organisation to evaluate the tools in place, and identify any gaps.
However good your preparation is, it is unlikely that you will be able to fully simulate a crisis. As a result, you will want to make sure you do learn from a crisis when it happens. You’ll want to know what went well, what failed, or what could have been done better. You’ll also learn from how people followed or disregarded elements of the crisis management strategy.
All of this requires every part of the crisis management effort to be logged in a way that you can learn from after the event.
In a crisis, every second counts, and you really need your teams to be able to work through the steps of the crisis management effort smoothly without any hesitations or delays.
As discussed above, the best way to achieve this is to plan ahead with crisis management strategies that are able to scale up to real life. And underpinning these strategies should be a crisis management platform that can coordinate every element of the crisis response from crisis communications both within the team and with other stakeholders, incident task managers and logs of actions taken and by whom, and reports that can be analysed after the event to improve the crisis management strategies for next time. Discover how Crises Control’s crisis management platform can help you prepare your crisis management strategies and ensure that your plans are effective, ultimately helping you limit the impact of any crisis, no matter how big or small.