The Importance of a Good Crisis Management Plan – And How to Get Started

You’ve likely spent the past couple of months planning for the new year. You’ve finalized efforts and received necessary budget approvals. You may even be suffering from planning fatigue and just want to implement already! (We get it. We marketers are an antsy bunch.) Here’s the thing, though. While most people are golden on their KPIs and prospecting lists, there’s something that we like to refer to as your insurance policy to protect all of those efforts toward your brand, and it is often overlooked. That’s why we’re sharing this oldie but goodie on crisis planning. For those of you who may not have that plan in place just yet, here’s an updated throwback to Lauren’s top-ranked Public Relations Global Network column on the importance of a crisis plan and how to get started. 

Imagine this: You get an unexpected call in the middle of the day. Your company’s network has experienced a data breach and information for thousands of customers is now susceptible to hackers. You don’t know all the details yet, but the local news has gotten wind of the story and they are planning to run with it on the evening newscast. To make matters worse, chatter from worried customers has already started on social media after an employee overheard the news.

What do you do? Are you prepared to field questions from media, your employees and your other stakeholders? How will this affect your company’s reputation and how will you take action to right the situation?

Of all the exciting aspects of public relations and marketing, crisis management can be one of the most challenging and uncomfortable areas to address – but it is also one of the most critical.

Big or small, for profit or not-for-profit, all organizations should have a well-rounded crisis management plan in place. A good crisis plan will serve as a guidebook to navigating all matter of complex situations that could affect the profitability, integrity or reputation of your organization. This includes serious crises such as workplace crime or violence to less dire situations such as your computer networks crashing or a single vocal and angry customer.

Developing a crisis management plan is not difficult, but it does require some forethought. An astounding number of businesses don’t have a crisis plan in place before one occurs, which can lead them to be caught off-guard when things go wrong and incorrect information going viral in a matter of minutes. Consider what types of situations could threaten your business and discuss how you would respond. Develop intentional messaging for those scenarios while you are calm and able to think clearly. If you wait until you are in an emergency situation, you will feel rushed and react emotionally. That is when mistakes are more likely to occur.

Once a plan has been developed, work with your PR, legal and human resources teams to ensure everyone understands their role and what the immediate first steps are in any crisis situation. A poorly executed plan can be just as detrimental as no plan at all.

Finally, a solid crisis management plan helps to ensure the safety of employees and the public during a time of crisis. Without clear next steps and quick action, people could panic depending on the severity of the situation and be tempted to take things into their own hands. This can lead to them hurting themselves or others and you could be held responsible.

No one wants or expects to get a call that puts their organization in jeopardy, but you need to be prepared if it does happen. Think of it as a professional insurance policy. You hope you’ll never use it, but you’ll sleep better knowing it’s there.

To get started on your crisis management plan, reach out today.