At first glance, the phrase "Crisis Management" appears to be a contradiction in terms. After all, a crisis is a crisis in large part because it emerges as if from nowhere and challenges our sense of what is normal and well-managed. A crisis is also frequently characterized by confusion or even panic, and occasionally induces rational individuals to throw up their hands in despair and run around in circles. Is it actually possible to....Manage a Crisis?
There are two Essential Elements to handling a Crisis
- I. Policy...
- You can take Action to fix the Problem!
- II. Communications...
- You can keep the Public, Media, and Interest Groups informed of
what you are doing and why you are doing it!
Every CRISIS is different, but all share, to some extent, the following characteristics:
- Insufficient information, when you need it most
- Events outpace response by organization (real or perceived)
- Escalating flow of events
- Loss of control (real or perceived)
- Important interests at stake
- Intense scrutiny from the outside
- Development of a siege mentality
- Disruption of regular decision-making process
- Affected managers focus on short-term planning / decisions / actions
Three key questions invariably provide the focus of Media attention...
- 1. Who is to blame?
- When will the party “at fault” be dealt with?
- 2. When did the organization discover the problem?
- What did it do before it became a crisis? & What is it doing now?
- 3. How can the interests at stake be protected and/or compensated?
- Have a clear set of Crisis Management Procedures
- A generic contingency Plan
- How decisions are made and by whom
- A triggering procedure
- A fan-out and callback system
- A public Information Plan
- A capacity for on-going monitoring of emergency issues
- A procedure for testing the Plan
- Provision for training key players / spokespersons
- Be prepared for the worst
- Take the initiative.... make news
- Establish a checklist of contacts
- Do not panic
- Take action to prevent escalation of the crisis
- Assess the situation from more than one perspective
- Identify and inform potential supporters
- Deal with only the crisis during the crisis
- Re-integrate the crisis into the normal flow of business
- Conduct a Crisis Post-Mortem
Emergency Media Response DO’s & DO NOT’s
- Do...prepare for an interview
- Do...stick to known facts only
- Do...tell the truth
- Do...focus on what the company is doing about the emergency
- Do...use everyday language
- Do...refer reporters to authorities and other sources of information
- Do...keep your cool
- Do Not...lie
- Do Not...speculate on the cause of the emergency
- Do Not...guess
- Do Not...apportion blame
- Do Not...offer information “Off the Record”
- Do Not...say “No Comment”
- Do Not...tell a reporter what to write or say
Crisis Management Procedures are essential:
Managers must have a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, going into and during a crisis. Training and exercises facilitate a high level of preparedness.
Communications are critical:
From a communications point of view, it is necessary to have a single message; to have clear, accurate, and reliable information; and the message should be delivered by a designated spokesperson supported by sub-spokespersons drawing from the same information base. Be consistent!