Today’s headlines are filled with companies dealing with crisis. Is your company prepared? Just as BP learned with the gulf oil spill and Malaysian Airlines learned through two disasters, a crisis can strike at any time. However, unlike Fortune 500 firms, smaller companies are often unprepared and usually do not have a crisis plan in place. They believe it will never happen to them. But, what if it does?
Before a crisis strikes, business owners should think about how a disaster would impact their families, employees, customers, suppliers, and the general public. Business owners should also think about how this will affect their company's value. A crisis can strike any company anytime, anywhere. Advanced planning is the key to survival. Here are seven critical steps to crisis management that every company should have in place regardless of its size.
1. Have a plan: Every company needs to have a plan that begins with clear objectives. The objectives during any crisis are to protect individual(s), employee or public who may be endangered by the crisis; ensure the key audiences are kept informed, and the organization survives. This written plan or, protocol should include specific actions that will be taken in the event of a crisis.
2. Identify a spokesperson: If the crisis could potentially impact the health or well-being of customers, the general public or employees, it may attract media attention. To ensure your company speaks with one voice and delivers a clear consistent message, a spokesperson must be identified as well as prepared to answer media questions and participate in interviews.
3. Be honest and open: Nothing generates more negative media coverage than a lack of honesty and transparency. Therefore, being as open and transparent as possible can help stop rumors and defuse a potential media frenzy. This transparency must be projected through all communications channels: news interviews, social media, internal announcements, etc.
4. Keep employees informed: Maintaining an informed workforce helps ensure that business continues to flow as smoothly as possible. It also minimizes the internal rumor mill that may lead to employees posting false reports on social media.
5. Communicate with customers and suppliers: You do not want customers and suppliers to learn about your crisis through the media. Information on any crisis pertaining to your organization should come from you first.
- Social media: The Ebola crisis and other recent major news events have all confirmed that social media is one of the most important channels of communications. Be sure to establish a social media team to monitor, post and react to activity before and throughout the crisis.
A crisis that is not managed well can wipe out decades of hard work and company value in a matter of hours. A well-managed crisis confirms that your company has the processes and procedures in place to address almost any issue that may develop.
Another critical component of crisis management planning is the establishment of a succession plan. You should clearly outline the necessary steps to follow if you suddenly become unable to perform your duties. This plan may include selling the company, or transferring ownership to family members or key employees.
What is most important is that you create the crisis management plan when everything is running smoothly and everyone involved can think clearly. By planning in advance, all parties will have time to seriously think about the ideal ways to manage different types of crises.
As you develop your crisis management plan, seek advice from the experts that include your leadership team, employees, customers, communications experts, investment bankers, exit planners, lawyers and financial managers. Each of these individuals can provide you valuable insight that could be critical should a crisis strike your company.
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