How to Create a Crisis Management Plan

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A crisis management plan is an essential investment for any medium to large-sized organization. It’s a way to safety-proof a business to mitigate damage in the event of a sudden crisis. By planning for various crisis scenarios, it will help businesses to respond calmly and strategically when a crisis does arise. When creating a crisis management plan, there are several key areas to identify and focus on.

What is crisis management?

As detailed in our recent blog post, “Common Mistakes Businesses Make Dealing With a Crisis”, a business crisis is an unexpected event, circumstance, or public news story that can threaten the credibility, reputation, or even survival of a company.

There are eight different types of crisis: natural disaster, technological crisis, confrontation, malevolence, organizational misdeeds, workplace violence, and rumors. Some are unavoidable, but others are preventable. However, regardless of the type of crisis, having a plan in place can mitigate damage and prevent it from becoming fatal.

Why is crisis management important?

A crisis management plan is essential because it allows companies to have a plan of action ready to use when necessary. It also means that businesses can pre-plan for the worst-case scenarios so that if a crisis does occur, decisions are made strategically and not in the panic of the moment. It also allows business owners to spot the signs of a crisis unfolding, prep employees, and notify all affected parties.

Delegate a crisis management team

The first step to create a crisis management plan is to delegate a crisis management team. These are the people who will be ready to spring into action as soon as a crisis is identified. Responsibilities in a crisis management team involve: tracking and analyzing signs of crisis, creating plans of action for different circumstances, leading internal and external communications, leading management and supporting employees, and seeing a company through an uncertain time.

Conduct risk assessment

Every company is legally obliged to complete risk assessments to keep up with health standards and regulations. But it’s important that seperate risk assessments identify possible crisis situations. By completing a risk analysis, businesses can identify potential incidents or scenarios where crises could arise. Then they can create a crisis management plan for possibility

Understand how crises could affect your business

Once you have identified possible areas of risk, you should analyze how this could affect your business. For example, if the risk is a poorly judged social media post, this could affect sales, reputation, and may alienate customers. If the risk is an economic downturn, this could lead to plummeting stocks, redundancies, and office closures. 

Implement monitoring systems

Monitoring systems allow businesses to catch a potential crisis before it actually becomes a crisis. Monitoring systems might range from social media alerts to spot trends or online discourse, feedback from customers or stakeholders, or reports on wider industry trends. Monitoring will allow a company to both keep on top of potential issues and adapt its crisis management plan strategy if necessary.

Define crisis criteria

While businesses can do their best to prepare for potential crises, they can arise completely out of the blue — through social media for example. As a result, businesses should create identifiable criteria to define a crisis so they can act appropriately. Crises can be identified before they emerge, as they happen in real-time, or after the worst has happened. Therefore in a crisis management plan, it’s important to identify if a crisis really is a crisis by asking:  are my employees or customers in immediate danger? Will this seriously damage the business’s reputation? Will this damage the long-term reputation of the business? Sometimes a scathing social media post may seem like a crisis in the panic of the moment, but it doesn’t necessarily meet the criteria of a crisis.

Identify a chain of command

A chain of command is essential in a crisis management plan to ensure that the response is cohesive and organized. Ideally, you want all company employees to be informed of the crisis and the planned response before the public. It makes sense that the top-level executives will be informed first, followed by management, then employees, followed by external affected parties like shareholders. This chain of command is essential to ensure that communication is consistent and the whole company is receiving the most up-to-date information.

Create crisis response plans 

No one can plan for every possible crisis scenario, but by delegating a team, conducting risk assessments, and defining crisis criteria, you should be able to identify the most likely circumstances that might affect your business. A crisis communications plan should include a checklist of all the below points.

Identify a spokesperson 

The crisis that your company is dealing with might be better managed with one spokesperson. In other contexts, it might work better to have several people be the public face of the company. Whatever the decision, it’s important that everyone is clear on who is responsible for this so that public communication is cohesive and consistent.

Establish internal and external communications

The way you handle your crisis internally and externally will differ. Immediately after a crisis unfolds, the public will be expecting a swift response. This should be prioritized, but not released so quickly that it fails to acknowledge key information or antagonizes affected parties further. Additionally, as a crisis worsens it can be easy to forget about employees who are understandably concerned. Coordinated internal communications to employees should also be prioritized in a crisis management plan so that every management level receives the most updated information.

Develop a social media strategy

This is arguably the part of the crisis management plan that could define the company’s handling of a crisis. Social platforms are an instant method to broadcast an apology, update, or acknowledgment of a crisis as it unfolds. People expect this response at the very least. At the same time, a crisis can unfold at a much faster pace on social media as news spreads quickly. It’s essential that social media is not ignored in the deployment of a crisis management plan because the online conversation can shift quickly.

Training

Making the company familiar with various crisis management plans, and implementing effective training is the best way to ensure that everyone is prepared. Training will prove invaluable if or when a crisis does eventually recover. 

Regularly review plans

Crisis management plans can quickly become outdated. It’s important that the delegated crisis management team regularly reviews and adapts the plans as necessary, and retrains employees when necessary.

It can take years to build up a solid reputation, but just one crisis for it to crumble. Effective planning is the key to minimizing damage during a company crisis. By following a well-thought-out plan, training employees, and regularly monitoring key areas of risk, any crisis that does arise can be handled effectively.

Find out how Otter PR can help build a crisis management plan by booking a free consultation.

Hollie Geraghty

Hollie Geraghty

Hollie Geraghty is a versatile media professional with four years’ experience across journalism, content writing, social media and public relations. Specializing in entertainment, culture and the arts, she has written for national and regional publications in both print and online. In her spare time, she can be found ticking films off her watch list, and planning new travel destinations.
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