If you run your own business—or oversee a significant operation of someone else’s business—you are always conscious that you are only one mishap away from an incident that could derail all the hard work you have put into establishing the good name and reputation of your enterprise.
It could be an accident that causes injury or death to a customer or an employee. It might be someone losing control of a vehicle and crashing through your front window. It could be someone protesting a cause and selecting your business as the target of whatever they are espousing. It could be a tornado that sweeps through your location and causes major damage.
The point is that all businesses and organizations are subject to experiencing some form of crisis. And, in the face of that gloomy reality, it only makes sense that one needs to be prepared with a basic crisis management and communications plan.
Incidents may not necessarily be your fault
Crisis communications-related incidents know no boundaries.
As often as not, crisis situations are triggered by safety or operational issues that happen in your industry. And when they occur, you can potentially be caught in the flurry of communications that inevitably surrounds the crisis.
For example, unruly passengers acting out on airplanes trigger focus on the entire airlines industry and can even extend to other transportation businesses like trains and busses. An outbreak of salmonella or e-coli in a restaurant can result in media focusing on issues like “How clean are dining establishments in our area.” A cyberattack from a foreign nation could disrupt your ability to supply services to your customers.
You may not be at fault, but because someone else has experienced or created a bad outcome, you may get caught in the crossfire.
Be prepared….and stay prepared.
A survey conducted in late 2019 by PRNEWS and CS&A International, a specialist risk, crisis and business continuity management consultancy, reveals that while 62 percent of companies have a crisis communications plan, there is great uncertainty about how many organizations regularly update their plans.
The same survey suggests, in addition, few organizations consistently practice crisis scenarios.
In short, they put the plan on the shelf to gather dust and fail to review it frequently enough to be of any value. The survey also goes on to reveal that almost 40 percent of companies lack any kind of crisis response plan.
By failing to remain in touch with one’s crisis plan, should a crisis-related incident occur, one’s response to the incident will be slow, confused, lacking clarity, and likely putting an organization in a defensive posture.
If a crisis incident occurred, what would you do?
Who would you call? Who should be called? How do you reach them? Who will investigate what is happening? Who should be speaking with media? Who should be representing your organization? How do you reach legal representation to ensure that whatever you say does not put you at risk?
From an operational standpoint, what immediate changes must you undertake in response to the incident? Remain open? Modify your operation? What do you tell your customers? What do you tell your employees? Who will do the communicating?
These are only a sampling of the kinds of questions you would be faced with. And you can bet your bottom dollar these questions will need to be addressed in the first moments of a crisis.
Without a plan, events spiral out of control
Per Dirk Lenaerts, senior partner at CS&A International, who oversaw creation of the survey referenced earlier, “Many companies struggle with reacting quickly and getting organized when crises strike. This is yet another reason why practicing is so important,” he said. According to the survey, respondents chose “reacting quickly” as “the most difficult aspect of crisis response.”
No crisis communications planning, of course, can foresee all types of incidents, but there are common elements that one’s plan should contain that will provide an orderly and managed response to whatever has occurred.
In that context, it suggests that two actions can provide a foundation for crisis response:
- Create a plan
- Practice and review the plan elements
At Wellons Communications, we know how to deal with crisis management
Businesses like to state, “We’ve seen it all.”
That is an overstatement, of course, but we can confidently state that our team at Wellons Communications has certainly seen enough.
We have served clients who have been well-prepared for a crisis. We have also assisted clients who never envisioned having to deal with the media firestorm that erupts in the wake of a crisis incident.
We have created crisis plans from scratch. We have updated crisis plans. And we have served as the driving force to execute on crisis plans, as necessary.
If your business is prepared for a crisis, congratulations. We hope you stay prepared.
We are experienced and well-versed in what actions to take (and not take) to help you maintain your reputation. And, in the end, maintaining your organization’s good name is what our job is about.