Crisis management and planning is important so everyone knows what to do when something goes wrong. But when you are in the middle of the storm, people can panic and time is short. The best time to do the planning is while the sea is calm.
1. Get ship shape and have good policies in place
Codes of conduct need to be established – professional codes of conduct, personal and board codes of behaviour and what to do about conflicts of interest.
You also need to agree and test communication protocols, who from the Board, management and staff can speak when, and about what.
Social media policies are now also much more than a staff issue. In many instances, a crisis will break on social media before you even know it is happening. Staff need to know what to say when, where and about what when they are representing the organisation. You need to know what disciplinary action you will take for breaches.
2. Know the forecast
A strong culture inside your organisation is a great defence and crisis management weapon. Make sure you have good two-way communication with stakeholders.
Know what is going on outside by keeping an eye on industry leaders, competitors, activists – look, listen and read.
Have good media monitoring – online, offline and blogs.
Over the horizon – look at what is predicted, forecast, happening nationally and internationally, regulations and legislation.
3. Find some pilots to help you navigate
Find external advisors or mentors – people who have done this before, who think differently from you, and whom you can trust.
Board, industry experts, competitors and lawyers.
Someone you can ask in a crisis.
4. Learn from the shipwrecks
Conduct your own post-incident reviews, and have teams examine each other’s issues.
Look at issues in the media, such as what is happening to other organisations.
Review, understand and think: could this happen to us? What if it did happen to us? How do we know it might not happen here?
5. Develop some charts
Have an incident response plan – treat it like a fire drill and test it on a regular basis.
Who needs to know, and who will do what and when.
Have a suite of templates and draft responses ready to action when required. These will include stakeholder communications, media releases, disclaimers, websites, social media posts and images.