The sheer mention of the word crisis can lead to immediate feelings of anxiety, stress and concern. And in a business environment, these feelings may be magnified tenfold. It’s understandable – crisis situations (and the way they’re handled) have the potential to make or break a company’s future. The good news? Smart preparation can help mitigate the risks of a crisis marking the end of your company, your future or your dreams.
While there are many pitfalls you may encounter when managing a crisis, three of the most common are a non-existent action plan, timing and external pressures. Let’s examine these pitfalls, as well as strategic ways to overcome them.
No action plan
At Obsidian, we advise our clients to be vigilant with their preparation because the question is not if a crisis will occur, but when. This philosophy forces us to think about the worst-case scenarios and confront them head-on, with strategy leading the charge. A good crisis plan defines the many faces of a crisis in respect to the company or industry; assigns team roles and responsibilities; and describes appropriate action steps to ensure the crisis is managed as effectively as possible. With a solid, well-defined plan, business leaders don’t have to worry about being behind that proverbial eight ball when a crisis rears its head. On the contrary, they can approach it with a certain level of confidence that although the situation may look grim, the path toward recovery is ever-present.
As the common saying goes, timing is everything. And, that statement could not be truer during a crisis. But, there’s a fine line that you must walk. On one hand, being prompt in communicating with your core audiences is crucial. In fact, in today’s society, it’s expected. Yet on the other hand, premature communication can lead to miscommunication. Here’s where your crisis plan comes back into play. In it should be a detailed description of your core audiences and streamlined communication chain. In other words, you should know (to some degree) which audience gets what message and when. The ultimate goal is to communicate promptly and accurately, understanding that the flow of communication will be ongoing through the end of the crisis.
With the proliferation of technology and the sense of urgency that it naturally creates (yes, I’m referring to social media), business leaders may feel overwhelmed with responding to public chatter or media inquiries during a crisis. Referring back to the crisis plan, it should also include a comprehensive media and social media policy. This policy should identify the company spokesperson, as well as protocol for responding to inquiries. Keep in mind that external audiences posing questions and asking for information during a crisis is not outside of the norm. It’s another part of the process that should be strategically managed.
The fact is that companies encounter crises and crisis-like situations on a regular basis. It’s part of doing business. But the differentiating factor is how they choose to respond during these times. Smart, proactive and fearless planning is the key to making it over to the other side.