Why You Need a Crisis Plan

Sep 10, 2020News

When $&#* hits the fan, does your business have a plan?

Business owners often put off creating a crisis plan because it’s not a revenue-generating event. And, let’s face it, thinking about worst-case-scenarios isn’t how most people want to spend a Thursday afternoon. 

But in the wake of the coronavirus, we’ve all realized the value of having a backup plan.

When the unexpected arrives, many business owners freeze—or panic. They try to build a strategic response on the fly, but they don’t know what to say to the media or how to communicate with their employees. Emotions run high while the crisis continues to snowball. It’s a CEO’s worst nightmare.

I’ve specialized in crisis PR for decades, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that poorly managed crises destroy reputations and end careers. 

Having a plan in place:

  • Eliminates the mental anguish of wondering if you did or said the right thing
  • Preserves the reputation you’ve spent years building
  • Saves potentially, millions of dollars, if the crisis leads to litigation

Every business needs a crisis plan. Here’s how you can build one.


Conduct a Post-Mortem

Assess where your business is right now in terms of crisis management. Every company has been through at least one major crisis in the wake of COVID-19, so use your response as a case study and be ready to conduct an honest evaluation of how you and your team handled the situation.

How did your business respond to employees, customers or clients:

  • What part of your crisis response are you most proud of? 
  • What did you do that worked well?
  • Where did you get lost? Why? 
  • What new policies/procedures need to be established and implemented to prevent poor outcomes from recurring?

As you answer these questions, invite other team members to assess the company’s response. Keep in mind that each person is viewing the crisis from a slightly different perspective. Soliciting feedback from multiple people allows you to discover problems you might have overlooked, making you better prepared for the future.


Build Your Crisis Plan

Next, start building a plan to help your organization cope with future crises. 

Step 1: Identify Potential Future Crises. Brainstorm with your leadership team to name the possible crises in your company’s future. These events could be related to business generally or specific to your industry. Common crisis events include but are not limited to: 

      • Accidents (on the job accidents, machine failure, transportation accidents)
      • Active Shooter (disgruntled employee takes hostages or kills coworkers)
      • Administrative (theft, embezzlement, sexual harassment, employee misconduct) 
      • Death or Incapacity (a member of senior leadership dies or is unable to continue working)
      • Natural Disasters (fire, flood, hurricane, blizzard)
      • Public Health (pandemic, chemical spill, medicine recall)
      • Technology (cybercrime – data breach, ransomware)

Step 2: Determine a course of action. Select the 5-10 most likely scenarios and discuss how your company would respond in each situation. Think about your response from multiple angles and audiences: leadership, employees, customers, media, general public, etc.

Step 3: Develop SOPs. Capture your plans by writing standard operating procedures for each likely scenario.


Case Study: Crisis Management Saves Serious Money

One of my former clients owned one of the largest fire truck manufacturing companies on the East Coast. One of their trucks had a brake failure that tragically resulted in a firefighter’s death. My client wasn’t responsible for servicing brakes, but their company was mentioned on the news as the last place that the truck was serviced. Fortunately, my client quickly issued statements and conducted pre-planned media interviews explaining that they only serviced specific parts of the truck involved with firefighting and therefore weren’t liable for the tragic accident. This quick response helped preserve the company’s reputation.

Several years later, there was a wrongful death lawsuit filed against several parties related to this accident. Because my client got out in front of the story, their name was not on the lawsuit—which, according to the CEO likely saved them millions in settlement costs and legal fees.


The Time is Now

With your COVID-19 response fresh in your mind, now is an excellent time to identify and develop a crisis plan or fill in the gaps in your existing plan. My Crisis Readiness Survey is a great tool to help you get started. 

If you’d like additional guidance on preparing for and responding to crisis in your organization, I’d be happy to connect. Just reply to this email and let’s set up a time to talk.