But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan.
The same could be said for any corporate crisis. After all, it’s a battle you’re indeed preparing for -- a battle for reputation, clients, and perhaps your organization’s very existence that you’ll be fighting.
And like the military, you never know when the shooting’s going to start, where it’s going to come from, or the full scope of what you’re up against until it happens. Your corporate crisis could be the arrest of an employee, the loss of client data, fire at the warehouse, a whistle-blower lawsuit, or hundreds of other possibilities, including massive changes requiring complex change management initiatives. But no matter how or when it unfolds, you’ll be several steps ahead of the game if you have an established and tested crisis communications plan already in place.
--------------- “When something bad happens you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” -Unknown ---------------
Don’t Wait to Get a Change Management Plan in Place
Large companies typically invest heavily in a comprehensive crisis communications plan that details responsibilities across multiple functions and departments. It will include key contacts in the organization, well-defined procedures and steps for Day One of the change management and beyond, and cover communications for employees, clients and other stakeholders. Business continuity in times of crisis is so crucial that most global firms have dedicated, full-time staff whose job is focused solely on being ready for the unexpected and who plan, test, and retest the organization’s ability to withstand crisis events.
A complete rundown of crisis communication roles and action plans would far exceed the limits of this column, but below are some takeaways to keep in mind when your enterprise hits a moment of crisis:
- Gather facts as quickly as possible. Things happen fast when crises unfold, so work hard to learn as much as possible about a situation in order to make informed decisions as you move forward. The ‘fog of war’ can trip you up at the start if you’re not careful.
- Be honest and forthcoming at all times. NEVER try to cover-up a problem or shortcoming. Acknowledge any mistakes and promote how you’ll address them. Avoiding the negative only makes a bad situation worse and negates effective change management
- Communicate frequently with all audiences. Keep all of your various audiences -- employees, customers, vendors, media, shareholders, etc. -- informed about how a crisis affects them (or if it doesn’t). Create timely Q&A documents to anticipate questions they’re likely to ask.
- Control the message, limit spokespeople. Identify in advance who will be the face(s) of your organization when addressing a crisis and its response. The fewer the better. Make sure messages are consistent among spokespeople and audiences. Keep everyone on the same page.
Above all, make sure your crisis communications plan is easily available and in the hands of key decision-makers -- anyone with a role to play in executing the plan -- before a crisis occurs. The last thing you want is to be scrambling to share your plan when the stuff has already hit the fan.
No matter the size of your enterprise, or your perception of how much a crisis might affect you, take a lesson from the bigs and don’t risk being caught flat-footed when a crisis hits. Talk with your troops now. And get your battle plan ready.