Imagine when faced with a crisis, your team has to start from a zero-based approach. Is it not better to have a blueprint designed to guide you before, during, and after a crisis?
A Written Crisis Management and Communication Response plan is essential in today’s always-on, 24/7 world. News and information flow in “real-time” and Stakeholders expect you to respond effectively to crisis reality and communication challenges.
When a crisis hits an organization, it is time for Crisis Managers to take the lead and a plan guides the way.
Crises offer organizations both immense opportunities and threats. A Crisis has the potential to destroy people, fine reputations, disrupt operations and destroy share prices and the integrity of an organization.
The challenge lies in how to respond to and in such an event.
Appropriate Crisis Response includes preparation, response, and recovery components, but more than that it is led and managed by well-trained, competent leaders that understand the how, why and what of a crisis and can lead through the proverbial stormy seas.
The Importance of the First Responder
There are first responders in any incident. Sometimes it is the trained first aider that rushes to deal with an injury, sometimes it is the PR department fielding a call from the media alleging environmental pollution, other times it may be the HR and Security managers that have to attend to an incident of workplace violence.
First Responders may be in your legal department fielding product recall liabilities, but regardless of their specific job titles, they must be capable of grasping the enormity of a critical event as it unfolds. “Before first responders arrive to assess a crisis, your internal leaders need to be prepared for – and trained in – the science of crisis response”, to quote Laurence Barton in the excellent book Crisis Leadership Now – A Real-world Guide to Preparing for Threats, Disaster, Sabotage, and Scandal.
Crisis Managers understand that what at first seems like a non-specific event or problem could rapidly escalate into being a genuine crisis. I like to call these smoldering crises, small, insignificant events that can result in unplanned visibility should it go public.
A smouldering crisis is any serious business problem which is not generally known within or without the organisation, which may generate negative news coverage if or when it goes “public” and could result in fines, penalties, or unbudgeted expenses or breakdown of relationships.
Crisis Managers understand their industry and worry about potential incidents that can harm them. Oil companies like Engen, BP, and PETROSA worry about potential refinery fires, explosions, spills, and other disruptions – and there are specific grounds for that. A Few years ago the Engen refinery in Durban was hit by lightning resulting in a major fire and millions of rands of damage.
Organizations like Sasol worry about a recurrence of the explosion that claimed a number of lives.
Organizations worry because even though they have excellent health & safety records, not even the best crisis prevention plans cannot always a momentary lapse of reason, an oversight, or just plain human error.
Others worry about potential product recalls – and you should if you are selling, manufacturing, or distributing – as we have had a number of high profiled withdrawals.
Other organizations worry about workplace stoppages’, outages, and potential mistrust being created through wrongful actions by employees.
Research shows that no organization is immune. And that should make you worry whether you are a director, shareholder, or employee.
But worry is like a rocking chair. You move back and forward but go nowhere. Should you not train your leaders in the science of crisis response?
Should you not be preparing for a crisis by creating a cadre of competent potential crisis leaders? That decision is yours.