A crisis is defined here as a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly. In crisis management, the threat is the potential damage a crisis can inflict on an organization, its stakeholders, and an industry.
A crisis can create three related threats:
- public safety
- financial loss
- reputation loss
Some crises, such as industrial accidents and product harm, can result in injuries and even loss of lives. Crises can create financial loss by disrupting operations, creating a loss of market share/purchase intentions, or spawning lawsuits related to the crisis
Crisis management is a process designed to prevent or lessen the damage a crisis can inflict on an organization and its stakeholders.
Bellow are the four best practices for crisis management;
- Have a Crisis Management Plan.
A crisis management plan (CMP) provides lists of key contact information, reminders of what typically should be done in a crisis, and forms to be used to document the crisis response. Fearn-Banks (2009) notes how a CMP saves time during a crisis by pre-assigning some tasks, pre-collecting some information, and serving as a reference source. Pre-assigning tasks presumes there is a designated crisis team. The team members should know what tasks and responsibilities they have during a crisis.
- Have a Crisis Management Team
Barton (2008) identifies the common members of the crisis team as public relations, legal, security, operations, finance, and human resources. However, the composition will vary based on the nature of the crisis. For instance, information technology would be required if the crisis involved the computer system.
Time is saved because the team has already decided on who will do the basic tasks required in a crisis. Management does not know if or how well an untested crisis management plan with work or if the crisis team can perform to expectations. Training is needed so that team members can practice making decisions in a crisis situation.
As noted earlier, a CMP serves only as a rough guide. Each crisis is unique demanding that crisis teams make decisions. GM Combs (2007) summaries the research and shows how practice improves a crisis team’s decision making and related task performance.
A key component of crisis team training is spokesperson training. Organizational members must be prepared to talk to the news media during a crisis. Lerbinger (1997), Feran-Banks (2001), and Coombs (2007a) devote considerable attention to media relations in a crisis. Media training should be provided before a crisis hits. The Crisis Media Training Best Practices in Table 2 were drawn from these three books:
- Have a Spokesperson
A key component of crisis team training is spokesperson training. Organizational members must be prepared to talk to the news media during a crisis. Lerbinger (2009) devote considerable attention to media relations in a crisis. Media training should be provided before a crisis hits. Brief all potential spokespersons on the latest crisis information and the key message points the organization is trying to convey to stakeholders.
A spokesperson needs to have strong eye contact,limited disfluencies such as “uhms” or “uhs”, and avoid distracting nervous gestures such as fidgeting or pacing. Coombs (2007a) reports on research that documents how people will be perceived as deceptive if they lack eye contact, have a lot of disfluencies,or display obvious nervous gestures
- Pre-draft Messages
Crisis managers can pre-draft messages that will be used during a crisis. More accurately, crisis managers create templates for crisis messages. Templates include statements by top management, news releases, and dark web sites. Both the Corporate Leadership Council (2009) and the Business Roundtable (2010) strongly recommend the use of templates.
The templates leave blank spots where key information is inserted once it is known. Public relations personnel can help to draft these messages. The legal department can then pre-approve the use of the messages. Time is saved during a crisis as specific information is simply inserted and messages sent and/or made available on a web site
- Communication Channels
An organization may create a separate web site for the crisis or designate a section of its current web site for the crisis. Taylor and Kent’s (2007) research finds that having a crisis web sites is a best practice for using an Internet during a crisis. The site should be designed prior to the crisis. This requires the crisis team to anticipate the types of crises an organization will face and the types of information needed for the web site.
For instance, any organization that makes consumer goods is likely to have a product harm crisis that will require a recall. The Corporate Leadership Council (2003) highlights the value of a crisis web site designed to help people identify if their product is part of the recall and how the recall will be handled. Stakeholders, including the news media, will turn to the Internet during a crisis. Crisis managers should utilize some form of web-based response or risk appearing to be ineffective.
Of course not placing information on the web site can be strategic. An organization may not want to publicize the crisis by placing information about it on the web site. This assumes the crisis is very small and that stakeholders are unlikely to hear about it from another source. In today’s traditional and online media environment, that is a misguided if not dangerous assumption. Taylor and Kent (2007) and the Corporate Leadership Council emphasize that a web site is another means for an organization to present its side of the story and not using it creates a risk of losing how the crisis story is told.