You know those moments when something bad happens and you think to yourself, “I could have planned for this,” but alas, you didn’t and now your hair is on fire and you don’t know how to put the fire out?
I know what you’re thinking. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of rainy days where I’ve left the umbrella in the house and camping trips where I’ve packed one pair of socks too few – but those aren’t the situations I’m talking about.
Last week, Mary Ann and I had a meeting with two fantastic employees from a risk management company. We talked about what we do here at SPR and what they do at their place of work. They explained that while their industry is heavily focused on providing insurance solutions to help manage risk, it is certainly not the only focus their company has. Instead, they take a more holistic approach, providing counsel and advice on complex business and people issues that go largely beyond what might be covered in an insurance policy. Their aim is to identify areas of vulnerability and then mitigate risks – as much as humanly possible.
We continued to have an in-depth discussion about those issues and ‘what-ifs’ that so many business leaders should be thinking about – but aren’t.
So here we are. Four individuals who work in two completely different industries, sitting side-by-side, discussing the incredible idea that all too often we have many of the same conversations with our clients and friends, dealing with the same pain point: A significant lack of planning for the worst.
At SPR, we like to say that we can be the guardrail at the top of the cliff or the ambulance at the bottom. While we certainly don’t mind being at the bottom to pick up the pieces and repair damage, we much prefer to be the guardrail at the top – stopping you and your business before your plummet to a disaster.
Communication is incredibly important during a crisis – whether it’s a mass causality situation, a data breach or faulty product, a recall or an employee lawsuit. When your hair is on fire, all eyes are on you and it’s important you have a plan detailing what needs to be done, who needs to be involved and how it should be handled.
So, as if you needed them, here are three good reasons why you should have a crisis plan in place BEFORE a crisis strikes:
You’ll be ready to respond immediately
When you have a crisis plan in place, the amount of time it takes to respond can be significantly decreased. Instead of trying to figure out who needs to be involved, who needs to perform what roles, what communications need to be drafted and released, you can say “go,” giving the signal to start the ball rolling on a response.
Those who need to be involved will already be aware of what roles they are responsible for. Business basics will be sketched out, key messages will be in place and high-level outlines for communications will already be drafted, with areas to be completed once the situation-specific details become available. These plans allow critical parties and stakeholders to receive consistent, transparently communication as quickly as possible – which in a time of crisis can make all the difference.
You’ll better protect your reputation
You won’t get out of every situation without a few scratches, but by having a crisis plan in place, your reputation is much more likely to be protected. When a plan is in place, the response will likely occur more quickly (as explained above), but also, it will demonstrate the proactive steps your company took to prepare for the situation at hand.
By providing factual and transparent information in a thoughtful manner, employees, customers and other stakeholders will appreciate your urgency, honesty and preparedness. They’ll be more likely to forgive a mistake or two along the way of the response. Further, you may be able to avoid additional damage if you plan before a crisis event.
Remember, it’s not necessarily the crisis that will make or break your reputation, but how you handle it.
For most of us, our workloads ebb and flow. We are fortunate not to be overwhelmed all of the time, with slower days to think about how we can be proactive and plan ahead. This is certainly the best time to prepare for a crisis – because crises don’t wait until your to-do list is empty. They often arrive when it’s most inconvenient, regardless of other tasks at hand.
When we don’t plan ahead and that emergency call comes in, it becomes a drop-everything, all-hands-on-deck situation. Lawyers, accountants and other specialized service providers are often involved. The clock starts ticking – and often runs faster and at higher rates if there would have been a damage-control plan in place.
While not every situation can be anticipated or planned for, a general plan should be built and adapted to the situation when it occurs. Having a basic head start can make all the difference when bad news comes knocking. Crises vary in intensity, but at the end of the day, transparency, urgency and preparedness are what will make the difference between a learning lesson and major blow to your business.