While some crises come out of the blue, and every crisis management effort involves some form of in-the-moment adaptation the vast majority can at least be predicted in terms of category. For example, every organization should have plans in place for a category of events titled “natural disaster”. You don’t know exactly what that disaster might be, but that shouldn’t stop you from preparing to face them.
In his “10 Steps of Crisis Communications”, Bernstein Crisis Management president Jonathan Bernstein talks more about this important part of preventing issues:
1. Anticipate Crises
If you’re being proactive and preparing for crises, gather your Crisis Communications Team for intensive brainstorming sessions on all the potential crises that could occur at your organization.
There are at least two immediate benefits to this exercise:
- You may realize that some of the situations are preventable by simply modifying existing methods of operation.
- You can begin to think about possible responses, about best-case/worst-case scenarios, etc. Better now than when under the pressure of an actual crisis.
In some cases, of course, you know a crisis will occur because you’re planning to create it — e.g., to lay off employees, or to make a major acquisition.
There is a more formal method of gathering this information I call a “vulnerability audit,” about which information is available here.
This assessment process should lead to creating a Crisis Response Plan that is an exact fit for your organization, one that includes both operational and communications components. The remaining steps, below, outline some of the major topics that should be addressed in the communications section of the plan.
For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
[Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]