An Implementable Crisis Management Plan

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A couple of weeks ago we shared a post that focused on the importance of creating Reputation Management marketing strategy. An important component of that strategy is crisis management. Every moment we turn on the news, radio or open social media, we see someone or some business facing some sort of crisis. Perhaps they handled a situation incorrectly, provided a poor product or service, responded to an issue unethically in the eyes of the consumer, or made a damaging or inaccurate statement… the list goes on! The clean up after that often seems like a long and daunting process and can ultimately make or break that business or person if they are ill-prepared.

The key to avoiding a crisis is issue management. However, if you find yourself in a crisis in the business world it is critical to be prepared, act swiftly and communicate properly. Crisis don’t just disappear through avoidance. Being honest, timely, direct and confident in your response is critical. Having a plan will help you navigate the negative and move forward faster.

Below we are providing six steps to help you approach and address potential crisis:

  1. Establish a Plan or Strategy. Plan before the crisis even happens. You’ll find that if you have a plan established, a good majority of the potential crises may be preventable because you’re working through issues and solutions and anticipating problems before they even happen. You should identify your crisis management team. Who will be the face and spokesperson should a crisis arise? This person or people should be trained in some level of communication and media relations if they’ll be responding publicly at any point. Who will be responsible for responding on social media or review sites? These individuals should know how to proceed with responding and be trained as well. This team should, if the situation requires, have access to an HR, legal and technical team or representative. Lastly, at the very base level, you should focus on fostering a company culture in which your entire team supports a healthy brand and takes responsibility in preventing and recovering from disasters.
  2. Communicate with Your Team. Make sure your team knows what is happening and what the Crisis Management Plan is. This helps you avoid having a staff member, who is not completely informed, issue a statement without having the whole story. It also supports a healthy culture as mentioned above.
  3. Communication is Key: Be Timely, Honest and Transparent. See a trend here? Communication is important! Being timely in your response is critical and it will set the tone for the duration of the issue. Remaining silent or taking too long to respond will only worsen the situation. It’s best to be as open and transparent and state facts, admit wrongs and provide what is being done to fix the crisis. It’s also just as important to correct and address any misinformation about the situation in a timely manner. Though being timely is important, you must also be careful to not provide emotionally charged, knee-jerk reactions which only fuel the fire.
  4. Communicate with Your Clients and Partners. You guessed it, the next step is to communicate! While you’re communicating with your team and those directly associated with the crisis, it’s equally as important to connect with your current and potential clients and your partners. Keeping them in the dark is not the answer. Making a connection and addressing the issue directly with them, even though they may not be directly involved or affected, will only strengthen your relationships.
  5. Stay Connected and Be Responsive. It’s important to keep monitoring what is being said about your organization in both traditional and social media platforms. There are many applications that can be utilized to notify you if you’re mentioned online. Keeping good relationships with your clients, stakeholders and employees will also help in keeping you informed. You’ll have additional insider sources who can relay information to you. By being informed, you can be better prepared for further comments and have a plan for response. It’s about maintaining a positive reputation.
  6. Post Crisis Analysis. We can all learn from problems and mistakes. Taking the time to go over what you did well and where you can improve will only help us for when the next issue or crisis arises. It will also allow you to adapt your Crisis Management Strategy to strengthen the weak spots.

Just like in modern medicine, prevention is better than relying on a treatment or cure. Taking steps to prevent a problem before it arises and having a plan of attack for if it becomes a crisis is the best approach. Developing your Reputation Management Plan that has a Crisis Management component can save you time, energy and money in the long run.

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