Are you sitting comfortably? 5 thoughts on how to ‘level up’ in crisis management
Updated: Oct 10
It’s in the planning.
If you know what might go wrong, you know what your first steps should be, and if you have a crisis and issues ‘team’ ready to roll, you have a distinct advantage in tackling whatever bad news story has come your way.
But comfort and issues management don’t sit well as bedfellows.
If you haven’t been a little scared in the prep for potential issues, then you haven’t thought through all the issues. If you think you can anticipate how things will flow, then you’re missing the joys of social media and real people responses. And if you are confident that you are buttoned down with your issues map, then you might be missing the gap between myths and realities that can become a story. And what people perceive is the truth is what has to be dealt with.
This doesn’t mean the world will end and that you can’t handle a crisis. Or more specifically, handle the response to a crisis.
But it does need some core steps for absolute rigour being placed high on the agenda.
1 Recognise this is not the job of your comms team alone to handle. Any given issue arising might require HR, Legal, Customer Relationships, Supply Chain, Finance or other core department involvement. And quite possibly in out of work hours. So ‘team’, protocol and process guides need to be shaped, shared and understood
2 Adapt for the times, and keep reviewing your crisis response planning. The Covid era has thrown up new considerations that might not have been thought through before
mental health and staff welfare challenges;
employee behaviour and personal social sharing on contentious subjects around your internal business decisions, around racism, around politics…
redundancies and furloughs
cybersecurity for home working
business continuity around a Covid outbreak
3 Work through all the potential challenges you can think of as a team. Obvious, unknowns and ‘what if’s?’ And then analyse those that would create the most problems for you. In terms of impact, likelihood, or a combination of both. A traffic light system applied to your list would help you determine who in your business might need to be involved on which issue, based on potential seriousness, which will in turn help you plan the handling protocol and flow.
4 Test things out. Learning doesn’t come from a piece of paper.
How might you respond to one of the issues going live?
What would you specifically say?
Which of your audiences and stakeholders would you speak to first?
What tone of voice, and language would you use?
What channels or mediums feel right for the message?
How you would sequence your messages, from something speedy as a holding statement to more detail as a follow up?
5 Be clear on your goals. Set your objectives when an issue breaks out, as just like anything else you’d do, measurement is vital. Be realistic, revisit if need be, but always keep a focus on the best-case outcome you want.
All of these are doable, if time is set aside to prioritise the need. Or you can work with an external facilitator, crisis and issues guide and a thinker who will help you understand and plan for your exposure points. My own version of the workshop that guides you through all of this is called the ‘Wind Tunnel’, named to prioritise the critical need to test your robustness, your models of crisis handling and potential responses. Because if there is one piece of advice to take, it’s test your planning…