Why businesses should practice today to respond to tomorrow’s crisis

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Three things are true about every crisis, whether The Russian invasion of Ukrainethis week mass shooting in a New York subway car, covid-or the next new crisis.

  • It is impossible to predict when a crisis will break out.
  • You can’t predict what the crisis will be.
  • Any the crisis will likely be worse for your business or organization if you don’t prepare for it now.

When, not if

Carla Bevin is an Assistant Professor of Corporate Communication at Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business. She observed that “many businesses and organizations have had little thought about the kinds of crises they may face and even less time to decide how they will plan for and respond to a crisis.

“When a crisis hits, it’s too late to develop a crisis management plan. Having a crisis communication framework in place in advance will help you when, not if, a crisis occurs. »

Clouded Judgment

Bevins noted that “stress and pressure can cloud our judgment, and the best time to plan for a crisis is before it happens. Ask employees from all areas of your business to contribute to the conversation about creating an effective crisis management plan.

“This plan will be the way to go in a crisis, and will reduce panic and sudden decisions that you may regret in the future,” she predicted.

A plan with real teeth

Evan McCarthy is the CEO of SportingSmiles, an online dental laboratory specializing in custom dental products. He recalled that “During the first year of the pandemic, we discussed the possibility of running out of supplies and sketched out various crisis scenarios.

”It led us to make the right decision, in hindsight, to revamp our warehouse, and by the middle of last year we had pallets full of supplies hitting the ceiling in our 10,000 square foot space.’ ‘

The impact of Covid

“We stocked up because every time we ordered supplies, the price kept going up. Our board supplies saw three major increases in 2021, in 2021 alone. We also renegotiated contracts with suppliers and purchased large equipment early, as prices were and are likely to rise further,” McCarthy said. .

Smoother operation

“By practicing worst-case scenarios from the onset of the global Covid pandemic, we were able to operate more seamlessly and with less impact on pricing and supply than if we had simply continued as business as usual. usual,” he commented.

Practice is essential

R.B. Bruce is an account director specializing in crises and issues at Reputation Partners, a national strategic communications firm. He noted that “training regularly before a real crisis occurs is critical to the success of a company’s crisis communications team. What a company does in the first hours of a crisis can make or break its response, influence the trajectory of the crisis, and ultimately negatively (or positively) impact its reputation.

Win time

“If the crisis communications team has to spend time figuring out who should sign off on messages, which subject matter experts to tap into, and what are the processes for responding to internal and external stakeholders (including the media), it risks let others take control of the crisis narrative.

Improve responses

“Regular practice of hands-on drills not only helps the crisis communications team know what needs to be done, as well as the individual roles and responsibilities of team members, but it also helps identify gaps that may exist in the response plan and gives the company time to address them. before a real crisis,” Bruce pointed out.

Worst case scenarios

There are several ways for businesses to practice testing their responses to different crisis scenarios, ranging from table top and from in-person exercises to computer simulations.

Todd Templin is the executive vice president of BoardroomPR where he manages crisis management. He said companies “have to plan games for worst-case scenarios. The last thing you want to do is fly by the seat of your pants, because one bad move and your reputation can suffer long-term damage and you’ll lose the public’s trust forever. Planning costs nothing, but it can mean anything.

Option creation

Templin said: “We recommend creating various options that could be used if the crisis got out of control. Then, if so, you can plug and play with a little tweaking.

”Nothing should be left on the table, no matter how crazy the idea. Even if the worst-case scenario doesn’t materialize, what have you lost? You have everything to gain, but nothing to lose,” he advised.

Advice for entrepreneurs

Murphy’s Law Happens

Bevins of Carnegie Mellon University said: “When I think about creating a crisis communications plan, I consider all the things that could go wrong. I accept that Murphy’s Law is happening.

Tailor-made packages

“Then I create a bespoke crisis management plan that includes both operational and communication components. Test the plan and follow the first rule of effective crisis management: communicate, communicate, communicate!

“One of the biggest dangers of not having a crisis communications plan in place ahead of time is that someone other than you and your company controls the tone and content of the messages sent,” a- she warned.

Don’t stay silent

“Responding early and often, correcting misinformation and making sure stakeholders and the public know what is happening is critical. Company silence or delayed responses can tarnish your image and reduce your chances of emerging unscathed from the crisis,” Bevins concluded.

A stressful exercise

public relations expert Liz Sweeneyowner of marketing and communications company Dogwood Solutions, said: “While identifying worst-case scenarios can be a stressful exercise, it is hugely beneficial to the business.

“The danger of not being prepared? At best, a company might appear inept and lose credibility. However, a truly unprepared business, or a person who mishandles the response, can damage a business beyond repair,” she warned.

“The media and the public will create their own versions of the story, and often those early versions are the most remembered,” Sweeney concluded.

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