As businesses navigate through one of the biggest economic crises in the history of the world, there are many lessons being learned along the way.
The most impactful takeaway is the fact that many companies are simply not prepared for major emergencies. In fact, Deloitte’s 2016 survey found only 49 percent of board members say their companies have playbooks for likely crisis scenarios. What’s more, just 32 percent say their companies engage in simulations and training for crisis management.
Crises are unexpected by nature and can quickly change many aspects of the human experience. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended several massive industries, including hospitality, travel, and event management, consequently causing downturns in the global economy.
These world events can cause a business crisis – events threatening the success and health of your company. The health of your company can be disrupted in many ways, including reputation issues, negative financial impacts, employee harm, and damages to operations.
To put it simply, you need a crisis management plan.
What Is a Crisis Management Plan?
The concept of crisis management refers to your process of preparing for and properly managing emergencies that directly impact your company’s stakeholders, employees, revenue, and customers.
Crisis management plans are a vital element of your public relations, as they help you manage your reputation with your customers and your target audience, while also focusing on the safety and well-being of your employees.
Your crisis management plan also helps you maintain productivity and find quicker ways to resolve major problems hurting your business. Who doesn’t want peace of mind during emergency situations?
There are many types of crises that can threaten the future of your business, including:
- Natural disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes.
- Technology issues, such as cybercrime (e.g., information theft, virus attacks).
- Accidental disasters that originate from human error, like breaking machinery or starting a fire.
- Conflicts of interest that can undermine your reputation, like false rumors and accusations in the media or tampering with your products or services.
You want a crisis management plan in place long before any of these disasters strikes.
6 Steps to Create a Crisis Management Plan
Fortunately, you can be proactive and put together a comprehensive plan in just a few steps.
1. Conduct a Risk Assessment and Build Your Crisis Response Team.
The best starting point for any crisis management plan is identifying realistic threats that can harm your company’s health. Get leadership involved, and assemble a dedicated crisis response team.
When it comes to building your crisis response team, adopt a few simple tips:
- Assign crisis response roles to team members who are in different areas of your company, including IT, accounting, HR, communications, legal, and risk management.
- Appoint a leader for your crisis response team who wants to oversee the program.
- Evaluate and assess who are the best fits for the team based on how they respond to problem solving, how they collaborate with others, and how they make critical decisions.
Once you have your dedicated team organized, you can work with your senior leadership team and stakeholders to compile a full list of potential crises that would likely disrupt your business functions.
This list of relevant risks should bring your biggest vulnerabilities to light. The more you know about what makes your business vulnerable, the better prepared you will be.
Some potential risks could include recalls on your products, data breaches, reputation damage from false information, gaffes in your marketing efforts, and theft from employees.
2. Analyze the Potential Impact of Each Crisis.
Using your list of potential risks and vulnerabilities, you’re able to conduct a business impact analysis (BIA). This is the process of quantifying the potential impact each crisis could have on your business.
In its simplest form, your BIA identifies both the operational and financial impacts that can result from disruptions to your business functions. Some of the most notable impacts you need to consider include:
- Delays of new business opportunities
- Increases in business expenses, like outsourcing or paying for overtime
- Potential fines
- Lost sales and potential revenue
- Loss of contracts and partnerships
- Customer dissatisfaction and reputation damage
- Customer churn
To conduct your BIA, first, download the business impact analysis worksheet from Ready, a national public service campaign to help Americans prepare for and respond to emergencies.
Then, work through each section of the worksheet. Start by adding the point in time when an interruption would be most impactful, then identify the duration of the interruption when the financial and operational impacts happen.
For the operations impacts, list out what those will be. For example, your business could experience negative cash flow from lost sales.
In the far right column, you can quantify what those potential financial impacts would be. Base your calculations on the hypothetical situation of disrupted business operations.
3. Specify Actions You Can Take to Respond Effectively to Each Crisis.
This is where you lay out all the action items for contingency plans associated with each kind of potential business crisis. Determine the steps required for each response, as well as what resources are required, and how specific employees will help.
For example, if you need to recall one of your products, your contingency plan would likely include your logistics department who needs to get the defective products back from customers, your customer service team to manage communications with current customers, and your marketing team to field customer questions to maintain a positive reputation.
4. Formalize and Finalize Your Plans With Your Team.
After you plan action items for each potential crisis, finalize your action plan documents and share them with your stakeholders, leadership team, and crisis response team. Ask for feedback and work together to finalize plans
You can also solicit feedback from other key employees within your organization, like team leads. They might help you solidify your plan by shedding light on other potential hurdles you may have overlooked.
Once you get approval from your leadership team and everyone involved in crisis management and response, you’re ready to publish it and roll it out to your company.
5. Educate Your Entire Company.
Don’t just send out an email with the documented crisis management plan. That will likely get lost in inboxes or briefly skimmed without much attention.
Consider holding a company wide meeting or team meetings where leaders and managers can educate their teams on what their roles are in each crisis. They can walk them through the crisis management process and field any questions employees might have.
It’s worth reiterating the importance of this plan with your staff on a regular basis so they keep it top of mind. Consider scheduling recurring meetings, especially as you grow your teams and add new employees.
Educate new hires during the onboarding process so they know exactly what to do and how to respond in case of an emergency. This peace of mind benefits everyone.
6. Continue Revising Your Plans and Processes Over Time.
You want to continually test and review your crisis management plan over time, especially as your team adopts new technologies and internal processes change. Any time your business undergoes any significant changes, ensure your crisis response team revisits any contingency plans to keep them up to date.
This is why it’s important to keep your crisis plan somewhere that is accessible for all your team members and where your crisis response team leader can make necessary updates and changes. These updates, once approved, should be immediately updated for employees.
Coordinate internal communications so that everyone is notified when a crisis plan is updated.
Crisis Management Plan Examples to Inspire Yours
There are so many ways specific emergency situations can disrupt your organization. Here are a few examples of crisis management plans to get you inspired to create your own.
Cybercrime Crisis Management Plan
One of the largest issues companies face is cybercrime. No matter how diligent your team may seem to be, they need to be educated and kept in the know regularly on how to prevent potential security breaches.
This goes beyond just your IT team. Vulnerabilities exist everywhere, and your team’s current daily practices might be creating more opportunities for cybercriminals to cause damage.
In the case of this example, your crisis management plan should include initiatives like installing additional security for your internal team, such as email security tools that stop dangerous emails from reaching their inboxes.
Another important action item would be to host email security webinars that educate your team on common cybersecurity threats, such as malware or phishing attempts.
Social Media Response Plan
Your social media presence provides amazing opportunities for you to expand your reach, boosting brand awareness, traffic, and lead generation. But it can also be where your company is painted in a negative light from users.
For example, if people are claiming to be customers and share negative experiences, your marketing team needs to be on top of their action items for this plan. Your social media content team should be proactively addressing negative comments publicly on your social media channels.
This crisis plan should also include social monitoring strategies, where your company has representatives listen to social media communities and update those people with new information through approved messaging.
You want a clear messaging strategy ready to go so your company stays consistent and accurate, sharing the right information with the right people at the right time.
Pandemic Response Plan
In the wake of the 2020 pandemic, where COVID-19 brought the global economy to a grinding halt while costing hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, many businesses are already thinking ahead for the next potential pandemic.
The silver living of the COVID-19 pandemic is that businesses can learn and better prepare for next time. Your pandemic response plan can cover all the bases, including actionable solutions for preventing the spread of disease in the workplace, modifying job responsibilities during a pandemic (e.g., adding new duties to maintain daily operations), and monitoring customer communications.
With these examples and hypothetical situations in mind, you can get started on creating your own crisis management plan.
Crisis Management Plan Templates and Resources You Need to Use
The good news about getting started with your planning is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are a ton of amazing resources available that your crisis management and response team can use when they’re formalizing and finalizing your company plans.
Here are the best crisis management plan templates and resources to get you started:
HubSpot: Crisis Communication and Management Templates
The crisis management communication kit from HubSpot includes the following:
- Crisis Communication Response Bank – templates you can use with your PR and other crisis communications teams. Use this worksheet to plan your guiding principles, communication channels, and approved messaging for specific crisis responses.
- Crisis Management and Communication Plan – a template used for planning your company’s escalation framework, roles and responsibilities, do’s and don’ts, and more.
- Post-Crisis Self-Rating Template – use this template with your team members to rate perceived performance for first response and follow ups.
FEMA: Emergency Preparedness Resources for Businesses
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides plenty of resources to help with planning and managing your business during emergencies. Some of their most notable resources include:
- Ready Business Mentoring Guide – this is a comprehensive guide that walks small business owners through how to create business continuity and disaster preparedness plans.
- What Are the Costs? – a high level breakdown of estimations to help small businesses weight the cost of developing a business continuity plan.
- Business Continuity Plan and Worksheet – these resources are meant to detail the resource requirements for business continuity and help you create a fully documented plan, including team roles and contact information.
- Risk Assessment Table – this worksheet breaks down risks, potential hazards, scenarios, mitigation opportunities, and impacts.
With these templates and resources, you’re ready to follow a few simple steps to get your entire company prepared for the next emergency. The unfortunate nature of crisis management planning is that it’s not a matter of if you will need a plan; it’s a matter of when.
Document, educate, and commit to evolving your crisis management processes so the next emergency is just an obstacle that you can grow from.