Crisis Planning: A Foundation For Crisis Management Success

Erik Bernstein crisis management

Crisis Planning: A Foundation For Crisis Management Success

crisis planning introductory image showing word plan with notepad

The ability to anticipate and safely navigate through crises has long been a cornerstone of organizational resilience. Since at least 1982, when Johnson & Johnson’s response to incidents of Tylenol being deliberately contaminated with cyanide set the bar for modern crisis management, smart brands have taken precautions to safeguard against threats to reputation, operations, and the financial bottom line. Crisis planning, an integral component of broader crisis management and communication efforts, empowers brands to better withstand these threats, coming out on the other side perhaps a bit bruised and battered, but largely intact and ready to return to business as usual. Let’s look at the pivotal role planning plays within comprehensive crisis management frameworks, along with some best practices suggested by our firm’s expert consultants.

The Vital Role of Crisis Planning

Crisis planning is not merely about preparing for the worst; it’s about envisioning various crisis scenarios and developing actionable strategies to mitigate potential impacts. While not every incident is a crisis, having comprehensive plans can help prevent trouble from escalating to the point of attracting public attention. At its core, effective crisis planning encompasses the identification of potential threats, the assessment of their implications, the establishment of clear, actionable response strategies, and a reliable way to ensure the people executing your plans are prepared to fulfill their roles.

Integration with Crisis Management and Communications

Crisis planning is intrinsically linked to the broader disciplines of crisis management and crisis communications. Together, they form a trifecta of preparedness, response, and recovery. Effective planning ensures that there is a seamless integration between crisis management, crisis communications, and business continuity efforts. It provides a framework for decision-making under pressure, direction for those guiding response, and outlines the communication protocols that will be used to help control the flow of information.

Best Practices for Effective Crisis Planning

  1. Comprehensive Vulnerability Audits:
    • Begin with a thorough vulnerability audit, also known as a risk assessment, to identify potential crises that could impact your organization. This should include both internal and external threats, ranging from cyber-attacks to natural disasters to reputational risks.
  2. Crisis Management Plan:
    • Develop a strategy and framework that would allow your organization to address any crisis that may arise. Include specific actions to be taken, resources required, and individuals responsible for each action. Ensure that these strategies are flexible and adaptable to the dynamic nature of crises. Remember to include communications protocols and procedures in your crisis planning efforts.
  3. Training and Simulations:
    • Conduct regular training sessions and simulations to ensure that your team is prepared to implement the crisis plan effectively. This includes rehearsing communication strategies and response actions to build confidence and reduce response times during an actual crisis.
  4. Continuous Review and Improvement:
    • Crisis planning is not a one-time effort. It requires ongoing review and updates to reflect new threats, lessons learned from past crises, and changes in the business environment. Regularly revisiting and refining your crisis plan ensures it remains relevant and effective.

Taking these steps will have you positioned nicely when it comes to managing difficult situations, no doubt, but there’s one more that many seem to forget. You see, your plan provides a framework and procedures for response, but there are still some blanks to be filled in when it comes to actual crisis situations. For example, while your crisis management plan may identify who is responsible for communications during crisis, for any given situation you’ll want to review the facts at hand before specifying key messages, target audiences, communication channels, assigned spokespersons, and timelines for delivery. It’s tremendously important to do all of your homework when it comes to crisis planning. Turning in the assignment late doesn’t fly here.

Investing in Preparedness

Organizations that invest in comprehensive crisis planning are simply better positioned to manage crises when they arise. They can respond more quickly, communicate more effectively, and recover more rapidly, thereby minimizing the impact on their operations and reputation. “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best” is cliché for a reason. Effective planning not only prepares an organization for the worst that can come its way, but also equips it to emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side. As we navigate through an era marked by volatility and uncertainty, the importance of crisis planning can’t be understated.