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What Would You Do in a Crisis?
Ten Practical Tips

Companies large and small must be prepared to respond to a variety of crises, ranging from an employee or customer who has the measles (Bose and Trader Joe's) to a defective product (accelerators in Toyota vehicles) to a flawed process (credit card security breaches at Target). To meet such challenges, your company should develop a crisis management plan in advance. You should also have procedures in place to handle the press.

At a previous job I saw first hand that a patent infringement lawsuit or other crisis can soon overwhelm a company. Management became obsessed with gathering data to support the lawsuit. Employees inevitably got drawn into activities related to the lawsuit. Consequently, they spent less time on normal operations, which soon affected the company's revenue and reputation.

Managing Crises

Of course, all companies should establish a culture where ethical behavior is expected and all types of risks are avoided. In addition, companies should:

  • Establish policies for email and other communications. Company documents and email could be used in court cases.
  • Before a crisis emerges, set up a crisis management plan. Bright Hub has developed a free risk management template. Include medical, legal, and financial emergencies in your action plan. Also list resources to use in a crisis.
  • Set up a media plan, and cultivate good relationships with the media before a crisis emerges.

Here are some tips for handling company crises should the unexpected occur:

  • Encourage staff to report problems promptly, but do not punish the messenger.
  • Use technology to keep abreast with new developments. Marty Walsh, Boston's new mayor, has a dashboard that gives him a daily view of city problems.
  • Frame a truthful official apology in which you acknowledge the facts and say what you are doing about the problem. You may need different responses for different audiences.
  • Respond promptly to reduce risk to your customers and your company. Target's delay in acknowledging the hacking of millions of customers' credit cards made the company look incompetent and irresponsible. GM's failure to report that airbags would not deploy caused 12 deaths.
  • Designate a spokesperson, preferably the company leader or someone experienced in crisis management, to report how the company is responding to the problem.
  • Inform employees about the problem(s), and instruct them to refer inquiries to the company's spokesperson.
  • Offer solutions, not excuses. Someone who has been unable to sign up for health insurance is not impressed with the fact that it is very difficult to set up an online enrollment system.

If your company experiences a crisis, you must acknowledge the problem promptly and truthfully. With a plan at the ready, you do not have to spend time deliberating what to do. While you deliberate you don't solve the problem, and you don't do your real work. In responding to the crisis, you should say how you plan to fix the problem and what you will do to prevent the problem from recurring. Then follow through.

We provide research and writing services that help companies grow.

Copyright 4/14 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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