It doesn’t matter what line of business you’re in, crises have a unique way of striking when you least expect it.
And don’t let there be any doubt – crises can affect any organisation whether large or small. They can emerge from what seems like a minor customer service error that is posted on social media and re-shared hundreds of times or, at the other end of the scale. a significant injury or fatality to a staff member or customer of your business.
No matter where they sit on the crisis spectrum, they all have the ability to have a huge impact on your reputation and operations.
Despite the common belief that crises are random and unpredictable in nature, all organisations have the ability to plan for them before they happen.
1. Plan, plan, plan.
Most businesses have common themes that arise in their day to day operations. In the case of a coffee shop, it might be a complaint about the temperature of a soy latte. It might be procedure in this coffee shop that if the coffee is too cold, as a matter of course it be replaced for a fresh one.
That’s because this scenario happens regularly, no matter the coffee shop. In the case of a crisis that may affect your business, there is a good chance that, with a bit of planning, you can predict which issues could escalate into a crisis, and then consider how you might handle them before you are being forced to do so in the full public spotlight.
Hunter recommends every business has a plan for dealing with a crisis that encapsulates not just dealing with the media but also how you will communicate with existing customers and other stakeholders important to the business.
In the case of corporate clients, issue management could include preparing for the possibility of a data leak, or an unhappy sub-contractor who goes to the media. Every crisis requires a bespoke response.
2. Know the stages of a crisis.
Every crisis follows a similar story arc. The initial critical incident phase is often marked by scrambling, confusion and dozens of phone calls from media and members of the public as they try to establish the facts.
This is followed by the response phase where those involved are simply responding to and managing the crisis until it is either under control or the crisis has eased or been averted. For example, a bushfire that has now been brought under control.
And finally, there is a consolidation phase. This is the time where the media and others will slowly pull back from their initial level of interest and will now be on the look-out for new angles, follow-up stories or the next big story of the day.
Knowing these phases, how to ride out the storm and how to respond for each of them is critical to managing a crisis.
3. Don’t wing it.
Put simply, ask the professionals.
Handled poorly, even the most minor incident can snowball into something much worse.
Having a plan means you have the right contact details and resources ready in one place so that you can be as prepared as possible when something arises. As Murphy’s Law tells us (and a lot of experience) crises tend to arise on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend when the boss has just boarded a plan to Bali, so planning and speaking to the right people is critical.