Major events involving large numbers of people are vulnerable to all sorts of problems. Most problems will likely be minor. However, what if you face a major crisis?
If you or your company performs poorly in a crisis, you could ruin in minutes a reputation that took your company years to build.
To protect yourself, your business, and your clients, you need to expect the unexpected.
In other words, you need a crisis management plan.
Where can you start? Consider the following suggestions:
1. Rehearse in advance
The best way your team can prepare for a crisis is to rehearse in advance how you should respond to various crisis scenarios. These rehearsals could range from round-table discussions to full-blown role playing. And since information, processes, and people can all change easily within a year, it’s important to rehearse regularly.
Such rehearsals can cover how and when to treat an incident as a crisis, who will make decisions, and who will implement them. Everyone needs to know their role.
When a crisis breaks, your company spokesperson needs to handle the media confidently and professionally. To do this, they will benefit from advance media training. Delivering the right message in the right tone with the right degree of authority under the media spotlight is a honed skill.
When a crisis hits, journalists will scour social media for information. So, as part of your crisis communications planning, your social media channels and manager should already be in place and be sufficiently resourced.
During a crisis, you need a dedicated place with telephone, computer/Internet, and FAX equipment installed to serve a communication hub. Your office may not be available to you, so consider what alternative location/s could be used.
Talking openly and honestly with key stakeholders about your procedures for dealing with a crisis can help to cement relationships and boost trust. When a crisis hits, you want them onside. Your reputation is linked to theirs. So, make sure your communication channels with clients, suppliers, and key staff overseas are open, up-to-date, and used regularly.
2. During a crisis
It’s helpful to use the RACI model. Who is Responsible for decisions? Who is Accountable? Who should be Consulted? And how should simply be Informed? Communicating during a crisis will be stressful and demanding. Many people will want to know “what’s going on?” The clearer you are in advance about everyone’s role and who needs to know what, the quicker your decision-making is likely to be.
Your core crisis team must also include decision-makers at the right level and across your business. These include operations, finance and human resources as well as communications. Your media or PR team are your portal to the outside world, but they will need the latest information, updates, and briefings from experts and those closest to any unfolding crisis.
3. After a crisis
As the immediate crisis abates and you reach the post-crisis stage, there are some questions to ask: Was it beyond your control, or could you have handled things differently? What feedback have you received? What does hindsight tell you?
Your stakeholders will want to know what you have learned and what – if anything – you intend to change. Being open and transparent about the lessons you’ve learned can enhance your reputation.
People understand that things can go wrong for any business. As a result, they will often judge you more on how you react to a crisis, than on the crisis itself. Respected organisations nearly always demonstrate some or all the following:
- Admitted responsibility (if appropriate)
- Acted with openness and transparency
- Talked frankly and honestly
- Made things right with clients
- Changed corporate culture (if required)
- Fixed the problem
- Acted with honesty and integrity
- Were clear about the extent and nature of the problem
- Showed authenticity
- Referred to their wider purpose as a company
It’s worth considering whether these are qualities you will be able to demonstrate if a crisis hits your company.
Event planners need to have a crisis management plan in place. This involves planning and rehearsing in advance, using the RACI model to respond to the crisis, and learning and implementing lessons afterward. Handling a crisis well can greatly improve you and your company’s reputation.