By Edward Segal
A lot can depend on when and how a crisis is managed, including an organization’s image and reputation, operations and activities, bottom line, and future.
While it is not possible to prevent every crisis, you can at least get ready for them the best you can by following some basic rules. The following 10 Rs of crisis management can be your road map to help prevent, manage, and recover from crisis situations.
- Risk. Identify the risk triggers that would cause a crisis for your company or organization. Some risks, such as tornadoes, floods, and other weather-related events — may be more likely for your area. Other crisis triggers—including allegations of sexual harassment, lawsuits, and ransomware attacks—are universal.
- Reduce. Take the steps that are necessary and prudent to lessen known risks. These steps can be as basic as following common-sense accounting procedures to help prevent fraud and forgery to more extensive actions such as providing appropriate training or retraining to employees.
- Ready. Have a crisis plan in place and ready to implement when it’s needed. Because one size will not fit all, the plan should be customized to meet the needs and realities of your company. An effective plan will help ensure that, when a crisis strikes, you will know what to do, who should do it, where to do it, why to do it, and how to do it. If you need help preparing your plan, send an email to me at email@example.com, and I will send a generic crisis management plan that you can customize for your organization
- Rehearse. If you already have a crisis plan in place, then review and update it on a regular basis and hold practice sessions to ensure the plan will work when needed. Having a plan and not practicing it is not much better than having no plan at all. The more you practice implementing the plan, the more prepared you will be if and when you need to use it.
- Redundancies. Have backup and contingency plans in case they are required. Since it is impossible to plan for every eventuality, a Plan B, Plan C, or Plan D may be needed, just in case. Be sure to practice implementing every contingency plan to help iron out any problems or issues.
- Research. Get all the information you can about your actual or potential crisis, including details about what just happened, is happening now, or what you expect to happen. As is the case with many crisis situations, some details about a crisis may be available sooner than others. Do your best to get and update as much information as soon as you can—and make sure that the information is coming from reliable sources.
- React. Know in advance what event will trigger a crisis and who has the authority to activate it. Because different crises will require different responses, know ahead of time how you would react to a variety of different crisis scenarios. A crisis is no time to learn as you go along. By practicing your response to different worst-case situations, you’ll have a better understanding and appreciation for how you should — or should not — react to each of them.
- Reach Out. Immediately communicate with those who are affected by or concerned about the crisis. You may have different publics and stakeholders—customers, clients, investors, vendors—who would be affected by the situation and would want information and updates about the crisis and how it was addressed or resolved. Use every communication tool at your disposal—include emails, text messaging, social media, phone calls, and websites— to provide the latest and more accurate information about the crisis. Cite the source of all the information you share—and don’t repeat accusations, rumors, or unverified facts.
- Recover. Know how you would bounce back from a crisis. Planning your recovery from a disaster, scandal, or other emergency is just as important as planning your response to it. You will need to get back to normal as quickly as possible, and a recovery plan will help you do just that. In planning your return, it will help to establish criteria, goals, milestones, and timelines to get back to where you want to be in a planned, coordinated, and logical manner.
- Remember. Keep in mind the experiences of others that have already gone through a crisis. What can you do to repeat their successes and avoid their mistakes? There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the best ways to respond to, manage, and recover from a crisis. There are plenty of lessons from which you can learn — pay close attention to news reports and case studies about how well or poorly others have managed their own crisis. If you were in their shoes, what would you have done?
Get the Help You Need
Don’t try to manage a crisis by yourself. Put together a team of qualified individuals to help at every step of the way. Who they are and what they will do will depend on the size, nature, and structure of your company, and the crisis. Members of your crisis management team could include HR, IT, lawyers, accountants, and first responders. Using the 10 Rs of Crisis Management can help ensure that your organization and staff manages and recovers from a crisis strategically, effectively, and efficiently.
Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant, and author of the award-winning bestseller, “Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies” (Nicholas Brealey, 2020). Segal is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com, where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues and also hosts the ‘Crisis Management Minute” and “Crisis Ahead” podcasts. Visit his website at PublicRelations.com
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Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.