Crisis Response 101: Mastering the Art of Firefighting in Business

Erik Bernstein Crisis Response

Crisis Response 101: Mastering the Art of Firefighting in Business

Firefighters spraying water on blaze metaphor for crisis response work

We’ve all seen those intense firefighting scenes in movies where the hero braves the flames, makes the right decisions, and saves the day. While in an actual fire you’d be turning to real-life firefighters to handle the action (shout out to our readers working in various fire response services around the globe), when your reputation’s in flames crisis response efforts will be in your hands!

Much like firefighters battling unexpected blazes, businesses have to understand that they will face unpredictable challenges head-on. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Welcome to the world of crisis response.

Crisis Response for the Unforeseen Blaze

Every organization, big or small, will at some point encounter a crisis. It might be a social media mishap, an abrupt product recall, or a global event affecting operations. Delving into some real-world examples can illuminate the essence of efficient and strategic crisis response.

The Tweet Misstep

In 2011, an employee at the Red Cross accidentally tweeted a personal message from the organization’s official account, referencing a specific beer brand. Instead of floundering, the Red Cross deleted the tweet and came back with a touch of humor: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet, but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” The beer brand in question joined the fun, urging people to donate to the Red Cross. This nimble and witty crisis response transformed a potential PR mishap into an opportunity for goodwill.

The Coffee Conundrum

Starbucks, in 2015, launched the “Race Together” initiative. The idea was for baristas to scribble “Race Together” on coffee cups to spur conversations on racial inequality. The campaign, however, backfired, drawing criticism for being superficial. Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz, recognizing the error, promptly withdrew the campaign but sustained the discourse internally, organizing forums for employees. This shift in crisis response demonstrated flexibility and a sincere dedication to addressing the issue at hand.

A Firefighter’s Strategy

Firefighters aren’t just about dousing flames; their work involves a calculated approach:

1. Assessment: Recognizing there’s a fire and gauging its extent.
2. Immediate Response: Time is crucial. A moment’s delay can mean the difference between a minor incident and a full-blown inferno.
3. Clear Communication: Keeping all team members in the loop.
4. Debrief & Adapt: Post-fire analysis to ensure better preparedness for future emergencies.

Crisis Response and Readiness

Much as a firefighter stands ready to combat unexpected fires, a well-devised crisis response plan preps businesses for unpredictable hurdles. It’s about spotting the ‘fire’, having the right tools and tactics, and ensuring a coordinated effort. With the right response strategy, you’ll be prepared to tackle challenges the smart way.

The BCM Blogging Team