Opening the floodgates: Are you prepared for another crisis?

As lockdown eases a little across the UK and some businesses are planning a phased return into their offices, now is the time to think about how your organisation could have done things better during this current crisis. If your business had a disaster recovery plan in place, did you follow it? If you didn’t, now would be a good time to write one, as any lessons you have learnt are fresh in your mind.

According to the Journal of Management Studies, a crisis could be described as ‘an organisationally-based disaster which causes extensive damage or disruption and involves multiple stakeholders’. 

If there is anything positive to be taken from the current Covid-19 situation it is the way in which the majority of companies have weathered the storm and been more resilient than they thought they could be. 

Typically, a crisis is hard to plan for. This time last year, the thought of a global pandemic sending us into lockdown would have seemed like something from a science fiction film. Now it is reality. 

A crisis can come in many guises. One tends to think of it being something like a fire, a flood or perhaps terrorism. But, an organisation should also consider the crisis implications of issues such as shareholder action, a product or service failure or a financial crisis. 

During the current pandemic, a large proportion of office-based personnel were required to work from home, so getting the team online with the right equipment, such as telephones, to do their job was a priority. While there was generally enough time for team members to collect equipment from their office and even pop back to pick up additional paperwork etc, this might not be the case if there had been a fire or flood or the building was demeaned unsafe in any way. Would your business have been able to continue in these circumstances? 

In addition to keeping staff and customers safe, also central to any crisis plan should be the need to safeguard the reputation of an organisation. This part of the plan should probably fall to whoever looks after PR and/or social media in your organisation. Contrary to widespread belief, using PR during a crisis is seldom about protecting the organisation from the glare of publicity. It is about creating an honest dialogue with the organisation’s various publics in order to rebalance perceptions. It’s important to note that the situations most likely to damage reputation are those arising from predictable risk issues – things you could have done differently as an oganisation. 

During the current pandemic, most customers and clients have been fairly understanding if there’s been a drop in service provided, assuming that this is communicated honestly. The mantra behind crisis PR is ‘tell it all, tell it fast and tell it true’.

When it comes to preparing, particularly from a PR and marketing point of view, it’s worth having a holding statement drafted which can be quickly amended if possible and shared online. During the current pandemic, many businesses had a pop-up message which reassured customers that the company was still functioning, even though the team might well have been working from home. 

Many schools, for instance, will have pop up messages prepared during the winter to advise parents that snow has shut the school and what students should do. 

It is also worth considering which members of the team will be spokespeople during a crisis and perhaps give them some media training, so that they feel prepared. In addition, it is worth drafting some statements for the media – which would generally centre around phrases such as ‘our main priority at this time is the safety of our staff and customers’ and so on.

Again, it’s important at the time of a crisis to have your social media channels monitored at all times, with the ability to upload appropriate messaging and respond to questions from customers.

It might be that team members usually run the social media channels from their PC at work. If it’s no longer possible to get into the building, can this be transferred to their phones or laptops and does somebody know the passwords? You’d be surprised how many such passwords are on a post-it note stuck on the screen of a PC in the office!

As lockdown eases, it’s worth assessing what worked well during this time, what didn’t and what needs to be in place if another crisis rears its ugly head. 

If you want to find out more about developing your crisis management plan, then give our team at Lake Solutions a call.

Article Details

Ian Jepp
25 June 2020