A crisis is an event that could have a damaging effect on your organisation’s reputation. Once your reputation is damaged, you could lose the faith and goodwill of your staff, shareholders, stakeholders, customers, the public and other external organisations that you depend on. It could mean the end of your organisation.
You can insure against fire, flood and acts of God but you can never insure your reputation. Make sure you protect it.
Golden Rules of Crisis Management
1 - Be prepared
2 - Don't panic - get the facts
3 - Work in a team
4 - Keep the information flowing
5 - Be honest and open, accept responsibility when you need to
6 - Show what you're doing to put things right
7 - Review - next time you'll be better prepared
Prepare now and you will stand a better chance of coming out of the crisis with your reputation and more importantly, your organisation’s reputation, intact. A good crisis management team and a crisis management plan are the nearest things to a reputation insurance policy. Now is not too soon to put them in place. Read More.
The Crisis Management Team
Small as possible but should include the boss and key decision-makers across all departments.
• Who does what?
It should be clear what each person is responsible for in the event of a crisis. Make sure that they have deputy in case of sickness, holidays etc.
• Keeping in Contact
Each team member should make his or her out of office contact details available to the rest of the team. nt, the updating of this.
• Be “Crisis Smart”
Make sure everyone on the Team understands the importance of being prepared for a crisis. Have regular meetings and ensure that everyone is fully trained – for example has your designated spokesperson had media training?
The Crisis Management Plan
• What could happen?
- You can’t possibly envisage every crisis that could happen, but some things could happen. Get the team to think of as many scenarios that could turn into a crisis.
• How would you deal with it?
For each scenario, devise a plan of action:
What do you need to do to put things right?
Who is going to do what and when?
What are you going to tell people and how?
Don’t Panic - Get the facts!
The worst time during a crisis is when you first hear about it. The news always comes as a surprise late on a Friday afternoon when your boss is away. You could hear the news from a variety of sources – a colleague, a client, a member of the public, a business associate or, worst of all, a journalist.
What do you say?
Whatever the source of the news, your reaction should be more or less the same:
Thank them for contacting you and get as much information from them as you can. You should then promise to investigate, and update them as soon as possible. Don’t speculate or justify until you have confirmed information. Get their contact details and tell them when you will come back to them, which you must do.
A “do nothing” approach can create a crisis
How you react now is very important. You can often head off a crisis by prompt action – for example, if you receive a complaint from a client or member of the public, you have an opportunity to show what an efficient caring company you are by your actions.
However, if you ignore the complaint or don’t deal with it promptly, you may find yourself dealing with public outrage.
Over-reaction can create a crisis
Over reacting can be equally dangerous as you risk blowing things out of proportion. Try and look at the situation and ask yourself how your organisation’s reputation could be damaged. The extent of this should help you determine whether you have a crisis or a simple complaint on your hands.
If you are unsure, then discuss with your line manager or the Crisis Team.
Put your Plan into Action
Once you’ve decided the situation has reached crisis proportions, you should mobilise the crisis team.
The team will need to decide very quickly on the course of action. This will depend on a number of factors:
- What are the possible outcomes of the situation?
- What do you need to do to limit the damage?
- Who is likely to be affected by the situation? (staff, clients, public etc)
- What are you going to tell them?
- Who is going to tell them and how? (phone, letter, email, personal visit etc)
- Are the media involved at this stage? What are you going to tell them?
Keep the information flowing
One of the most important elements of your action plan is to keep a regular flow of information to all affected and interested parties. If people feel they are being kept informed, they feel less threatened by the situation and are more likely to trust you.
What information should you give?
Public outrage is your worst enemy, but the public can’t be outraged at an organisation that is genuinely sorry for its mistake and is doing its best to put things right. It can, on the other hand, be outraged at an organisation that refuses to accept responsibility or keeps its actions secret.
Be honest and open. Accept responsibility and apologise if appropriate. Show your concern through words and actions – for example a visit from the CEO to a “wronged” client will portray a caring company.
Demonstrate that you are making every effort to put things right – highlight this and people will soon forget your misdemeanour.
After the Crisis
What have you learnt?
As soon as possible after the crisis has passed, review the situation and ask:
- How could the situation have been better handled?
- What measures could have been put into place to avoid such a situation?
- How effective were the pre-laid plans?
- How can they be improved?
- How effective was the Crisis Management Team?
- Should any changes be made to the members?
- Could the team be better organised?
Make recommendations on how these issues could be addressed and implement them into your crisis plan.
How can your organisation be improved?
The crisis will also highlight areas that need improving in the organisation as a whole. These could be, for example:
o Health and safety
o Client relations
o Relationship with local media
o Relationship with local opinion formers
Take steps to address these problems immediately and you may save yourself and more importantly, your organisation, from a future crisis.
Turn the devastation after the storm into the calm after the storm. Cobb PR will review the extent of any damage to your reputation and work with you to improve media relations and win back the loyalty and support of your customers, shareholders and stakeholders.