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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
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
Of course, all companies should establish a culture where ethical
behavior is expected and all types of risks are avoided. In addition,
- 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
- 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.
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Copyright © 4/14 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.
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