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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

Crisis Management Plan: How to Calm the Seas

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

In our last blog we discussed the importance of thinking about a crisis before it hits. This means developing a crisis management plan when things are calm so that you have it at hand when the going gets tough.

What is a crisis management plan?

A crisis management plan is an established process a business follows when dealing with a disruptive or unexpected emergency situation. The plan is a team effort. It is developed in consultation with stakeholders and outlines the roles and responsibilities that need to be carried out when a crisis presents itself.

What are the elements of a crisis management plan?

There are several steps to consider in creating a crisis management plan.

1. Evaluate the types of crisis that may impact your organization.

Situational Crisis Communication Theory identifies response strategies that organizations can use to handle a crisis. It categorizes crises in the follow ways:

  • Victim Crisis: A business plays no hand in the crisis and isn’t at fault.

  • Accidental Crisis: A business is at fault for the crisis, but it was from an unintended mistake.

  • Preventable Crisis: A business purposefully took an action that resulted in negative consequences.

After you determine what types of events could occur within each of these categories, assess the impact it could have on your organization. Things to consider are loss of revenue, increased expenses or negative impact on employees or consumers. This type of review develops a framework that can help guide your actions to appropriately resolve each event.

2. Discuss the types of goals to be achieved

When developing your response to a crisis, it’s important to identify the various goals that may need to be achieved. For example:

Is the goal to return to operating the way you did before?

Is it to prepare for legal challenges?

Is it to protect your public reputation?

Is it to reestablish trust with stakeholders?

The answers to these questions can help you identify the types of resources that need to be incorporated into your plan.

3. Organize your team

People with different expertise can help develop a nuanced response. Your team can include human resources, IT, legal, finance, board members and key stakeholders.

Having representation from the breadth of the organization provides agility in your response. They will not only have input on the development of the plan, but will often be key players in the implementation of the plan.

4. Develop the crisis plan

Your crisis management plan should be rooted in the philosophy and values of your organization. It will be developed from the types of crisis that you have identified as well as the goals you want to achieve. Here are some common questions to consider while developing any type of crisis resolution plan:

  • What steps need to be taken immediately?

  • What tools and resources are necessary?

  • How many people, and which people need to be involved?

  • What is the communication plan for each group of stakeholders?

5. Develop the structure for communication

The frequency of communications largely depends on the event. Providing regular, informative updates to key stakeholders provides a sense of stability.

Building scripts, quick reference materials, and a list of the types of questions that are frequently asked can be helpful resources. Building the communication structure before a crisis hits makes it easier to provide a consistent message when under stress.

6. Plan to educate and train your employees

Part of the plan will include providing support to your employees. While they may not be part of the crisis response team, there should be consideration of the training they may need. For example, if there is a possibility that employees will be contacted by the media, train your employees to direct any queries to the designated contact.

7. Think about a post crisis plan

When a crisis passes or subsides, your crisis management work is not finished. It's imperative that part of your plan is an effective debriefing process. (Check out parts one & two of our debriefing series).

Outlining how you will elicit and use the feedback from employees, customers and other stakeholders will help you answer these questions:

  • How can we prevent the crisis from happening again?

  • What have we learned from the crisis and our response to it?

  • What actions or changes do we want to take based on what we have learned?

The answer to these questions can revitalize your organization as you move boldly into the future.

Taking the time to think about crises before they happen can assure smooth sailing to business success.

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