Don’t cry for a lifeboat after you’ve jumped into the water!
Don’t cry for a lifeboat after you’ve jumped into the water! Instead be prepared with a crisis management strategy.
Unplanned events can have a devastating effect on small businesses. Crisis such as fire, damage to stock, illness of key staff or IT system failure could all make it difficult or even impossible to carry out your normal day-to-day activities.
At worst, this could see you losing important customers – and even going out of business altogether.
But with good planning you can take steps to minimise the potential impact of a disaster – and ideally prevent it happening in the first place.
If you don’t prepare, you will incur more damage. When I look at existing crisis management-related plans while conducting a vulnerability audit (the first step in crisis preparedness), what I often find is a failure to address the many communications issues related to crisis/disaster response. Organizational leadership does not understand that, without adequate internal and external communications, using the best-possible channels to reach each stakeholder group:
- Operational response will break down.
- Stakeholders will not know what is happening and quickly become confused, angry, and negatively reactive.
- The organization will be perceived as inept, at best, and criminally negligent, at worst.
- The length of time required to bring full resolution to the issue will be extended, often dramatically.
The basic steps of effective crisis communications are not difficult, but they require advance work in order to minimize damage. The slower the response, the more damage is incurred. So if you’re serious about crisis preparedness and response, read and implement these 10 steps of crisis communications, the first seven of which can and should be undertaken before any crisis occurs.
The 3 Steps of Crisis Communications
- Anticipate Crises
If you’re being proactive and preparing for crises, gather your Crisis Communications Team for intensive brainstorming sessions on all the potential crises that could occur at your organization.
- Identify and Train Spokespersons
Categorically, any organization should ensure, via an appropriate policy and training that only authorized spokespersons speak for it, and this is particularly important during a crisis. Each crisis communications team should have people who have been pre-screened, and trained, to be the lead and/or backup spokespersons for different channels of communication
- Post-Crisis Analysis
After the fecal matter is no longer interacting with the rotating blades, the question must be asked, “What did we learn from this?”
A formal analysis of what was done right, what was done wrong, what could be done better next time and how to improve various elements of crisis preparedness is another must-do activity for any Crisis Communications team.
Remember to update your plan regularly to take into account your business’ changing circumstances. If you move into new premises, for example, you could face an entirely new set of risks. You’d need to draw up new maps for the emergency services and amend any contact numbers necessary. You should test your plan regularly, even if your business hasn’t undergone significant changes.
Keep your plan updated