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How to create a successful crisis management program
Years ago, people had this idea that although emergency preparedness was a smart move, actual emergencies were rare. Not anymore.
Astute leaders know it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN emergencies will hit their organization.
In a Deloitte survey of more than 500 crisis management executives, nearly 60% of respondents said their organizations face more crises today than they did 10 years ago. Clearly, the ability to manage crises when they occur is a critical organizational function. And yet, crisis management can be an intimidating term.
Crisis means a very bad event — one that may cause physical, emotional or financial harm — right? Adequate crisis management, then, is a thoughtful, strategic process designed to minimize the impact of a crisis.
While it may not prevent a crisis, a comprehensive crisis management program should minimize loss and provide invaluable peace-of-mind across the organization and the audiences you serve.
How do you create a successful crisis management program?
Regina Phelps, founder of Emergency Management and Safety Solutions, recently discussed this question on Business Resilience Decoded, a podcast by the Disaster Recovery Journal.
Crisis management can mean different things to different people inside an organization, Phelps shared. The CEO and marketing team might say crisis management entails managing the brand and its reputation. The IT team might see it as implementing disaster recovery technology and increasing cybersecurity. For the finance department, crisis management means protecting the bottom line.
Which interpretation is correct? Phelps argues they allare. Creating a holistic crisis response program that can meet each of these needs requires you to give each of these perspectives a seat at the table.
Ingredients of a comprehensive crisis management program
According to Phelps, a successful crisis management program must include the following:
Clearly defined team structure
Decide who within your organization will make up the crisis management team. Like every other team in your organization, members must have clear roles and responsibilities, from strategic planning to tactical execution.
Crisis assessment criteria
Within your crisis management team, select members should bear the responsibility of defining criteria for evaluating crises. Once that criteria is defined, the team should establish processes in an incident action plan, which dictates the appropriate response for various scenarios.
Incident action plan
Your incident action plan should answer three questions about a crisis:
What is the situational awareness?
What are the strategic objectives and what needs to get done right now?
When do we reconvene to check in?
Timely and effective communications
Time-starved and attention-poor audiences demand communications that are fast, relevant and actionable – particularly in a crisis, when risks increase with every passing minute. As you map out how you’ll communicate and with whom, be sure no internal or external audiences are neglected, including non-English speakers, hearing and sight-impaired individuals.
Having worked in crisis management for more than 36 years, Phelps shared the following wisdom for both rookie and seasoned crisis managers:
Flex your crisis muscle. Mastering crisis management response takes practice. Since your organization (hopefully) isn’t mitigating crises on a monthly or quarterly basis, Phelps recommends periodical drills and exercises to build your crisis muscle memory. This way, when a crisis does arise, your team is prepared to act quickly.
Prove your value. Since crises are highly situational, the ROI of crisis management is difficult to measure, said Phelps. Instead, she recommends communicating its “Value of Investment” (VOI) to upper-level management. On that note, Phelps added it’s also important to perfect a 15-second “elevator speech” on the VOI of crisis management and proactively tracking events or trends that could snowball into a crisis down the road.
Embrace technology. Phelps encourages organizations to invest in technologies that will improve and speed up crisis response. “I still see teams trying to manage crises with phone bridges,” she said. That’s far from adequate, she said: “There’s no way [that approach] is successful.”
Wondering how to improve your crisis management communications?
Get in touch and request a complimentary consultation. We’ll help you solve your biggest emergency or routine communications challenges with technologies you already own.