Corporate crises come in a variety of forms, ranging from social media glitches to mass casualty situations. Regardless of the circumstances, every crisis has the potential to negatively impact a company’s short and long-term reputation, daily operations, and financial performance. Resolutions require a prepared crisis management plan with flexible, yet pre-identified responses and actions. Informative communication and proactive, actionable procedures can minimize the impacts associated with corporate crises.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently”. -Warren Buffett
A properly developed and implemented crisis management plan can result in:
- Crisis resolution
- Continuation of business as usual
- A preserved, or possibly enhanced corporate reputation
- Financial sustainability
It is critical that a basic crisis management planning framework, response measures, and communication strategies be established and exercised before a crisis actually occurs. Most successful responses result from a prepared strategy, with a cooperative understanding of the incident, response roles, and assigned responsibilities. Since each crisis is unique and comes with varying degrees of impact, each crisis 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
A crisis management team (CMT) may be activated for any situation that involves a threat to people or property, a business interruption that could have a negative financial impact, or an incident that may result in damage to the company's reputation and/or financial well being. CMTs, often comprised of a small group of senior managers, typically respond, coordinate, and set necessary actions in play according to the specific crisis situations. The team members should be trained to manage an array of potential crises, additional risks and exposures, and management stakeholder interests.
- Crisis Manager: Approves the Crisis Management Plan and provide overall leadership
- Security Manager: Reviews and revises the plan on necessary security related procedures
- Public Affairs Advisor: Participates in all aspects of Crisis Communications
- Medical Advisor: Assess and assists in human health impacts of crises
- Human Resource Advisor: Maintains a current, accessible contact list of all employees, contract employees, and responders
- Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental Advisor: Coordinates the implementation, training, and updating of Incident Response Plans
- Legal Advisor: Ensures the availability of legal representative related to crises
- Crisis Management Advisor: Supervises and coordinates necessary CMT support roles. Individuals may be assigned to work directly under any core CMT position to fill a specific need. Support roles may include:
- Aide(s): Administrative resource(s)
- Business Unit Advisor(s): Anticipates Business Unit issues, develops strategic plans to proactively address these issues, and adjust staffing of Business Unit Group and to suit evolving needs
- Subject Matter Expert(s): Be available to assist crisis manager on as “as needed” basis.
If the crisis warrants, the pre-identified crisis team would be responsible for developing media strategy, public statements, and key messages, as well as identifying and briefing one or more spokespersons to deliver the pre-approved messages to media outlets. A specific individual or individuals should be assigned to media/public relations to ensure messaging consistency and information availability.
While the specific circumstances will define a crisis response strategy, basic communications processes typically remain consistent. Companies must be tuned into the vast digital network of social chatter. Viral rumors and antagonistic communications can often be inhibited with a timely, factual, and proactive crisis communications campaign.
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