It’s no secret that crisis management is essential to the survival of any business, regardless of its size. However, smaller businesses often lack the resources and expertise required to develop a comprehensive crisis management plan, leaving them vulnerable to unexpected disasters that can damage their business, their reputation and their bottom line. In this blog post, you’ll learn about 12 tips to help you develop a crisis management plan for your small business, helping you prepare for the worst and respond with confidence.
Before diving into the tips, it’s important to understand what crisis management is. Simply put, crisis management is the process of preparing for, responding to, and recovering from unforeseen events or emergencies that can impact your business. These events can take many forms, including natural disasters, issues with your premises, cyber attacks, product recalls, or even negative social media posts. A good crisis management plan can help you minimize the impact of these events and protect your business and reputation. Not only will it help you identify all the possible risks, it will enable you to plan for your response in each scenario, whether you need to find an emergency plumber in Houston, a PR professional in New York, or an IT expert to help you regain control of your systems after a cyber attack. So here are 12 tips to help you develop a crisis management plan.
1. Identify Potential Risks and Hazards
The first step in developing a crisis management plan is to identify potential risks and hazards that your business may face. This can include natural disasters, safety hazards, cyberattacks, regulatory issues, and more. Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment and ensure all stakeholders are involved in the process. Remember smaller risks too, such as an issue with the plumbing in your building, or internet outages. Small problems can quickly become big problems if they mean you cannot operate your business as usual.
2. Determine the Potential Impact and Severity of Each Risk
Once you have identified potential risks, determine the potential impact each risk could have on your business. Consider how much it could cost your business, how much you could lose in terms of revenue, and the extent of potential damage to your reputation. Crisis management plans often take the form of detailed spreadsheets, so you can go through all the risks methodically to assign the risk factors.
3. Develop a Communication Plan
Communication is essential during a crisis, and establishing a communication plan is critical to ensure everyone involved is aware of what is happening and how to respond. Identify who will be involved in communication, what channels will be used, and the key messages that need to be communicated to stakeholders. If there’s a chance you’ll need to make statements to the media or in another public forum, consider who will do this, and get them some media training to ensure they can handle the situation professionally.
4. Appoint a Crisis Management Team
Establishing a crisis management team can help ensure that the plan is executed effectively. The team should include representatives from key areas of the business, including HR, legal, marketing, and public relations. You’ll also need to ensure staff from across your company understand the crisis management plan, and how they can help in the event of a crisis.
5. Establish Clear Roles and Responsibilities
Assign specific roles and responsibilities to each member of the crisis management team. Clearly define the expectations and duties of each assigned member, so they can go about their tasks without any confusion. If you might need staff to work extra hours in the event of a crisis, make this clear up front, and even consider including this in their contracts – including how they will be reimbursed for their time.
6. Develop a Contingency Plan
A contingency plan outlines the steps that your organization will take should the crisis plan fail. Consider all possible scenarios and prepare accordingly, ensuring that every base is covered. If you’re struggling to think through all the possible scenarios, get some experts in to guide you through the process. Organization and forward planning makes a huge difference in a crisis.
7. Create an Incident Response Plan
An incident response plan outlines how your organization will respond to a specific crisis. It should include specific actions and steps that need to be taken during the crisis, and should also include potential scenarios, such as evacuation or shelter in place protocols. You should also have a roster of emergency contacts within the plan, such as emergency plumbers and electricians, as well as high profile stakeholders who will need to be informed.
8. Conduct Crisis Management Training
It’s essential to ensure that all members of the crisis management team are trained in how to respond to a crisis. Workshops, drills, and simulated exercises can help fine tune the plan and ensure that all team members are well prepared. Many companies have an annual crisis practice day, where they are assigned a crisis and the team assembles and responds as if it was real.
9. Develop a Crisis Communication Strategy
A crisis communication strategy outlines the type and timing of communication that will take place in different phases of a crisis. The plan should include steps to address different stakeholders, including employees, vendors, customers, and shareholders. This goes a step further than the communication plan, as it aims to predict the long term impact of a particular crisis, and how this can be mitigated through a good strategy.
10. Monitor Social Media
Social media can often act as an immediate communication channel during a crisis. Ensure tools are in place to monitor social media and negative news coverage surrounding an incident. Know how you will react to certain types of posts in a crisis, as staying silent can often make a situation worse. Equally, social may be a valuable tool to communicate with staff and customers in certain types of crisis situations.
11. Review and Update your Plan Regularly
A crisis management plan should be reviewed and updated regularly. This will ensure that it stays current and relevant and includes new risks that may have arisen. Make sure you know who has responsibility for this, and how frequently it will be reviewed.
12. Test your Crisis Management Plan
Finally, test your crisis management plan regularly through exercises and drills to ensure that it will perform as expected. This will help identify gaps in the plan, opportunities for improvement, and increase the confidence of your team. As well as a crisis response day annually, there can be smaller drills to test the plan. For example, the social media team can plan different types of responses they would give in particular scenarios. They could even test these responses with small focus groups to see if they can make any improvements.
Planning is the cornerstone of business success, and developing a crisis management plan is no exception. By following these tips, you can establish a comprehensive plan that will help you respond to crises with confidence. Remember, it’s never too early to plan for the worst and arm your business against unexpected events!