The coronavirus has dominated news headlines, affected workplace protocols and travel policies and caused the cancellation of hundreds of global events.
No business is immune to a crisis like this one, and COVID-19 is forcing organizations across the world to engage in crisis management and communications—whether they are prepared for it or not. According to a study, 90% of executives are confident in their organization’s ability to handle a crisis, but only 17% tested their assumption through exercises—revealing a significant gap between crisis confidence and preparedness.
Whether the crisis emerged from an escalation of smaller events or was triggered by a significant external factor like the coronavirus, here are six important steps to take to prepare:
- Identify risks and vulnerabilities early: It’s important to understand the specific areas of threat to your organization. Companies can uncover and diagnose their own threats by evaluating the health of internal and external indicator groups around them. Internally, these activities could include reviewing and updating employee policies, communications procedures and emergency response plans, as well as interviewing department leaders and keeping an ongoing pulse on employee engagement. Externally, you might evaluate social and political environments, direct and indirect competitors, industry reports and trends, traditional media coverage and social media conversations.
- Form a crisis management team: Collaborate with internal department leads to identify members of the crisis team and formalize their specific role. It’s not enough to just identify the core team—you need to make sure they know what to do. Setting these expectations creates transparency and is a great way to reduce chaos in the heat of the moment.
- Train the team: Equip your team for timely execution through messaging updates, tabletop or live scenario exercises, spokesperson training sessions and procedural reviews. Time is not on your side during a crisis. Take advantage of the time you have now to ask yourself what you would do if the worst-case scenario happened to your organization.
- Create crisis escalation protocols: Document the steps to report a potential issue, as well as who, how and when to escalate it. While it’s nearly impossible to identify all of the dark and winding paths you’ll go down during a crisis, you can give yourself a roadmap for the most likely of scenarios.
- Identify your communities: Determine the primary and secondary impacted communities based on each potential scenario. Each crisis is unique, and the nature of the crisis will likely change who your priority audiences are and how you communicate with them. For instance, your priority communities impacted by the coronavirus may include supply chain, employees, customers and investors.
- Know your message: How a company communicates can make or break how it rebounds from a crisis. Curate all of your important brand and crisis messages in one place for easy access. Using the right tone and messaging that reflects your organization’s values helps maintain authenticity in potentially negative situations.
It is possible to recover and make your community stronger in times of crisis if you’ve taken the time to prepare ahead of time. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” The time to start preparing for a crisis is now.
If you are in the midst of a crisis and need support, we would be glad to partner with you to address it with transparency, timeliness and authenticity so your community can come out stronger on the other side. Email our team today at firstname.lastname@example.org.