The term “crisis management” carries a reactive aura, but companies and organizations that best respond to unexpected emergencies are ones that anticipate some form of the unexpected.
No one can anticipate every facet of every potential crisis, and attempting such a feat could border on obsession. But organizations should regularly brainstorm potential crises that may logically emerge from time to time and prepare for those model events.
If you manage a hospital or nursing home, you know that at some point a patient’s family member will grieve the loss of a loved one and blame the facility. If you run a large school district, you can be quite sure that an employee will someday do something illegal or unethical. If you run a busy construction company, you should know what you would do in the event of a serious injury or fatal accident.
The time to work through these plans is not in the middle of an emergency; it’s now, and the process should be ongoing and evolving.
If your company or organization has managed to avoid a public blunder but sees a competitor caught in a scandal, read everything you can on the predicament and ask your team members questions such as: “What would we have done in that situation?” “What mistakes did they make?” “What can we do differently?” If you experienced a controversy in your company that managed to avoid public or media scrutiny, work through the issues to correct the situation and consider how you would have reacted and how you could have minimized damage if the information had gone public.
Does your company or organization lack a crisis plan, or has your plan been gathering dust on a shelf? Now is the time to begin the conversation. You’ll be sure to garner pushback from executives, as few people like to discuss unpleasant topics. Remind them that crisis management is much more palatable when it’s hypothetical than when it’s reactive.