When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis


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In assembling a crisis management plan for your business, all you are really doing is locating your own versions of the flashlights well in advance of the actual crisis. Planning for the Inevitable Think of a crisis communication plan as insurance.


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There are those--usually people who've never experienced a crisis--who say planning for a crisis is a waste of time because it's planning for something that may never happen. And besides, they add, once they're written most crisis plans simply sit on a shelf or in a drawer and gather dust. There's some truth in these observations but, remember, most insurance policies are also for things that never happen and they too sit in drawers gathering dust. But, just as those reasons aren't good enough to forego having insurance, neither are they good enough reasons to forego having a communication plan for crisis situations.

The same way a smart car-owner buys enough insurance to cover medical bills for several injured people and totally demolished vehicles, the smart crisis planner prepares to handle the worst possible crisis that could occur. Then, in the case of a fender-bender, or if a lesser crisis occurs, you're covered. It's fairly easy to scale-back and deal with a lesser incident when you're ready for big trouble, but trying to cope with something worse than anticipated can be extremely difficult and risky.

At the same time, it's important to be reasonable and to match your level of planning to the likely level of risk you face. Just as it's possible to waste money by being over-insured, it's possible to waste time and resources by over-planning for unlikely crises.

Decide who should do what. The number of people involved in a crisis communication team and their specific assignments differ from organization to organization depending upon the organization's size, location s , type of business, and specific characteristics as well as the number, skills, and backgrounds of the people who are available to assist with handling the situation.

An effective crisis communication team usually includes trusted and well-prepared employees who have been assigned to cover most, if not all, of the following positions. For some organizations and circumstances, only one person is needed in each position. In other cases, a single set of duties may require several people to adequately handle it, possibly people who are performing essentially the same tasks but at different locations.

Remember, if your company issues stock, the U. The creation and assignment of these special crisis positions does not in any way to alter or detract from the authority and responsibility of the organization's director of communication. Determine the best place for each of them to be. Because they're geographically dispersed and don't have all operations centralized in one place, some organizations will need to have several people performing nearly identical duties in different locations.

Preparing for Crisis

The number of locations and which functions are handled at which location will vary tremendously but are likely to include most of the following: Having someone at the actual crisis site is critical, if there is a specific site. But, many of the most troubling and long-lasting crises are wars of words -- allegations of wrong-doing, moral or financial scandals, etc.

In some crisis -- most often law enforcement situations, natural disasters, or major, on-going incidents such as fires or environmental clean-ups -- an emergency operations center EOC will be established so key decision-makers sometimes from different organizations can work together to resolve the crisis. In such cases, every organization that has a role in handling the crisis is likely to want its own communication personnel on hand in the EOC.

Organizational headquarters or corporate offices may not require any special communication staffing if an emergency operations center is established, but it is a critical communication location when there is no EOC. It is, by default, where the most important officials' offices are and where official decisions and policies are usually announced.

3 Crisis Management Case Studies We Can Learn From

In addition to being a meeting place where the media come to get information from the communication team, media centers should also provide support services for the media such as work space, phones, computer interfaces, copy and fax machines, background information, and refreshments. In fact, nearly 40 percent of small businesses close following a disaster.

This is proof that small businesses need to be effectively prepared for any crises that may hit. In late , an IT security blogger broke a huge story: Target issued a statement the following day and posted a video with more details on its website. The company apologized, explained how the hack had happened, and offered free credit monitoring for affected customers.

Think of a crisis communication plan as insurance.

First, it responded before officials were fully aware of the scope and cause of the problem. This forced Target to later walk back some of its statements, such as the number of customers whose information was hacked.


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In the eyes of the consumer, it made Target seem unprepared, unprofessional, and even a bit suspicious. That was because most consumers were taking to social media—not to the website—to air complaints and interact with the company. This offered a valuable lesson to Target, and others, to respond to a crisis using the appropriate channels. In September , the Environmental Protection Agency accused Volkswagen of manipulating its engine controls to be able to pass laboratory emissions tests.

Unfortunately, the way the company handled the scandal made things even worse. As the company set out to recall millions of vehicles, officials promised to reimburse some, but not all, customers for their troubles. The brand likely would have fared better through this crisis if it had taken a few key steps: Right in the middle of the busy summer travel season, Southwest Airlines was suddenly struck by a wide-reaching technology failure.

Its website and other key systems were down for more than 12 hours, prompting the airline to cancel thousands of flights.

Managing Crisis

Over the course of four days, the company worked to respond to customer complaints quickly and effectively, in large part by leveraging social media. Its approach offers some key lessons. Southwest did several things right in its social media response: It apologized profusely for the inconvenience, admitted fault, and continually posted updates as the crisis unfolded.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis
When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis
When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis
When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis
When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis
When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis When Bad Things Happen to Good Organizations: How Effective Managers Prepare for Crisis

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