Run for the Hills

By Sherri Walkenhorst / Apr 15, 2014

CM - blog - crisisWhen was the last time you watched a movie about a crisis or disaster? Given the popularity of the genre, it probably hasn’t been long. I’ve noticed that when disaster strikes, screen writers take one of two approaches: Everyone runs for the hills or they come out guns blazing.

Even the organizations you work in can be scripted for disaster depending on how you are equipped to handle a crisis. The way you respond could have a huge impact on your business. Below are some tips for your own crisis management script.

  1. Develop a plan before you have a crisis. Identify scenarios that could arise, such as stolen customer data or a vulnerability in your product, and outline processes for each situation. Your processes may include internal notification procedures; social and traditional media monitoring; and developing messages for various groups as appropriate including customers, channel partners, and media.
  2. Get the facts. It might be obvious, but sometimes in the face of a crisis, people make decisions before they have a grasp of the issue. It’s important to do your research, gather information, and then recognize what you don’t know. As you get the facts, determine when the timing is right to acknowledge the issue and note that you’re investigating.
  3. Address in a timely manner. Don’t ignore the crisis and hope it will just go away. It won’t. As soon as possible, communicate accurate information and correct mis-information. Continue to monitor and provide frequent updates as needed until the crisis is resolved. Make sure you communicate how you plan to resolve the crisis. If you are responding to issues with a product, for example, outline timing as well as when and how customers will be able to get the product fix.
  4. Demonstrate empathy and support for those impacted by the crisis. As a result of the crisis, your customers may be dealing with issues that could impact their business. Show you care.

Unfortunately, the Target breach is a script of what not to do in a crisis. They didn’t alert customers until a journalist broke the story and forced them to acknowledge the breach. When Target did go public, they made statements before they had all of the facts – statements they had to later retract. As a result, the company has found itself in a position where it will take years to rebuild its reputation and customer trust.

Not all movies have a happy ending, but you can be assured of one when you have a script for crisis management within your organization. Make it simple and flexible. You will see how easy your plan is to adapt when a crisis does hit.