Crisis situations can erupt suddenly and without warning. Most successful responses result from a prepared strategy, with a cooperative understanding of the incident, response roles, and assigned responsibilities. It is critical that a crisis management framework, response measures, and communication strategies be established and exercised before a crisis actually occurs.
“Drive thee business, or it will drive thee” – Benjamin Franklin
Regardless of the circumstances, every crisis has the potential to significantly impact a company’s short and long-term reputation, daily operations, and financial performance if the situation is not handled properly. Resolutions require a prepared crisis management plan (CMP) with flexible, yet pre-identified responses and actions. A CMP should be viewed as a reference tool, not a stagnant directive.
The following concepts should be utilized to generate effective corporate crisis management plans:
Potential threats: Identify all potential threats to “business as usual” operations. This can range from safety incidents and life-threatening emergencies, to social media glitches and human resource controversies.
Evaluate responses: Since each crisis is unique and comes with varying degrees of impact, each potential threat must be evaluated and resolved individually based on:
- The potential impact on current and potential clients and customers
- The potential impact to employees and the company
- Stakeholders interested in the outcome of the incident
- The level of control the company has over the situation
- Complexity of the crisis and specialists required
Position: Determine the company’s public position or viewpoint for each potential issue. A public relations strategy and communications plan to relate this information should be established.
Mitigation Measures: Take preventive measures to avert emergency situations and proactively deter negative perceptions, including generating effective response procedures and recovery processes for a variety of potential threats.
Plan: Prepare a CMP for responding to all internal and external aspects of the crisis. This may include identifying all stakeholders that may be affected by each crisis situation, communicating effectively, and collaborating with additional necessary resources.
Persevere: Proactive efforts, honesty, empathy, and preparedness will assist in maintaining company viability and reputation. Utilize your plan, modify per incident specifics, and communicate company positions and ongoing activities to counteract the incident commotion.
The composition of a crisis management team (CMT) will vary depending on the nature and scale of the crisis. Depending on the requirements, following roles may be designed to provide the company with the essential functions necessary to manage most events (*denotes support positions activated as necessary):
1. Crisis Manager (CMT Team Leader) - Approve theCMP and provide overall leadership.
2. Security Advisor - Provide input regarding security related procedures contained in the CMP during scheduled plan reviews, and provide guidance regarding current or potential security issues during a crisis.
3. Public Affairs Advisor - Provide input and participate on all aspects of Crisis Communications.
4. Medical Advisor - Assess and assist in human health impacts during a crisis.
5. Human Resource Advisor -– Provide guidance relating to communications with employees, and work to minimize impacts to employees and their families. Maintain a current, accessible contact list of all employees, contract employees, and responders,
6. Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental Advisor (HSSE) – Provide guidance regarding actual or potential environmental, safety, and health issues related to the crisis. Coordinate direct implementation, and training and updating of Incident Response Plans.
7. Legal Advisor - Ensure a Legal representative is available at all times in case of a crisis to assess potential legal impacts of response actions and communications.
8. CM Advisor - Supervise and coordinate necessary support roles. However, individual Aides may be assigned to work directly under any core CMT position to fill a specific need. Also responsible for the readiness of a Crisis Management Center, if necessary.
9. *Aide(s) - Administrative resource(s).
10. *Business Unit Advisor(s) - Anticipate Business Unit issues, develop strategic plans to proactively address these issues, and adjust staffing of Business Unit Group to suit evolving incident needs.
11. *Subject Matter Expert(s) (SME) - Be available to assist crisis manager on as “as needed” basis. Examples of potential SMEs may include specialized technical, legal, or environmental experts
CMPs and activated CMTs are of little value to a situation if they are never tested on realistic crisis scenarios. Exercising a plan with established and communicated objectives and expectations can vastly improve the effectiveness of required responses, the decision making process, and task-related performances.