Whether it a social media post gone wrong or an unexpected supply chain disruption, your company needs to be being able to identify potential crises, prioritize responses, and engage with stakeholders effectively. During a crisis, your company should be able to depend on a response plan in order to protect the financial and reputational aspects of your operations. Poor crisis management performance can be prevented with proper planning.
Below are six common crisis management planning mistakes that can negatively impact a response.
1. Failure to predict potential crisis situations: Your Company must determine potential crises, analyze them, and design responses to each. Regardless of the circumstances, every crisis has the potential to negatively impact the company’s reputation, daily operations, and financial performance.
In addition to planning for potential natural disasters, companies must plan for business continuity issues, operational hazards, and security vulnerabilities. Whether security vulnerabilities come in the form of a network intrusion, a computer virus, or an actual physical attack, site and electronic security should be taken into consideration when assessing potential threats.
2. Unclear communications plan on company positions: Pre-planned communications methods must be in place to state a company’s position on potential issues. Companies must be prepared to voice factual and timely information before falsehoods and negative public images spiral into rumors and publicity nightmares. A crisis will likely generate news coverage that may adversely impact employees, investors, customers, suppliers, and possibly the community. It may directly harm a company's reputation, offices, and revenues. Additionally, policies and procedures, as well as information regarding the organization should be developed well in advance of any crisis.
Companies should also establish effective communication pathways with local emergency services, hospitals, police, and fire departments. Any miscommunication can add to the duration of incidents and potentially expound upon the crisis scenario. Companies should identify support organizations during the crisis management planning process and make contact information available as necessary. A detailed and collaborative planning effort can equate to a faster recovery time, minimizing the ongoing effects of the disaster.
3. Insufficient regulatory compliance: Companies must be fully aware of the regulations and/or laws enacted by state or federal mandates that could affect company operations. Compliance costs are typically lower than the expenditures associated with non-compliance fines, litigation, reputational risk, and government mandated shutdown of operations. Companies must implement a budget, safety program, and preparedness measures that ensures regulatory compliance.
4. Overlooked prevention and mitigation measures: There are various communication and crisis response details and variables that must be considered and planned for. However, there may also be mitigation measures that can prevent crisis situations and proactively deter negative perceptions and actions. This may include performing safety and operational audits and assessments, additional personnel training and business continuity planning.
For example, business continuity combined with hurricane planning can prepare a company to react to an impending storm. In developing these plans, employees must have the resources, procedures, and safeguards to successfully mitigate its effects and sustain critical business processes.
5. Lack of effective Crisis Management Planning: Companies should prepare a plan for responding to all internal and external aspects of the crisis. A useable Crisis Management tool should include, but is not limited to the following:
- A contacts database of response organizations/individuals
- Stakeholder identification, assessment, and documentation tools and reports
- Task scheduling, documentation, and reporting tools
- Crisis Management performance assessment tool
- Incident, exercise, and maintenance modes
- Database containing all incidents and exercises, with ability to retrieve all documented conversations and tasks
- Accessibility to multiple users simultaneously involved in multiple incidents
- Integrated help system
- Intuitive maintenance tools
6. Failure to establish a command hierarchy or structure: A Crisis Management Team (CMT) should be aware of their roles and responsibilities, and be properly trained to act on those responsibilities should a critical incident or crisis occur. It is not effective for a team to be established and assigned roles as a crisis is unfolding. Each member of the CMT must be in place and comfortable with their role long before an incident occurs. Inability to provide clear specific duties, tasks, or functions for each team member during a crisis will create indecision, confusion, and an inability to perform at optimal levels.
For a crisis management plan to be properly initiated, those selected for the crisis management team should understand established response policies, the context of crisis communications, and their individual responsibilities. A strategic response framework with checklists and criteria that can guide the decision-making process should be developed and tested prior to a crisis.
7. Failure to exercise: It's one thing to have a plan in place, but if the response team has never practiced potential scenarios, the plan is not likely to be effective. Lessons learned and plan updates (including updated contacts and procedures) should be readily available and provided to all crisis response team members. Each member should be included to practice elements in the plan on a regular basis.
8. Failure to establish workable format: The response plan should be in a format that is intuitive and easy to use. In some cases, a quick reference guide should be readily available to all team members.
9. Failure to evaluate and update: If the crisis management plan is exercised or activated, team members should review results and feedback to determine if adjustments should be made. Lessons learned from exercises and incidents have demonstrated that many companies lack the tools to properly manage a response. In order to take response efforts to the next level, action items resulting from the exercises should be completed in a timely manner.
Specific recovery guidelines provide agreed-to procedures to help facilitate an expedited return to normal operating conditions.