18 Mar Having a crisis? Who cares?
Winston Churchill has been quoted as saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” In the world of risk management, that attitude has a lot going for it. A crisis is a test that gives you an opportunity to tell your story, demonstrate your leadership and move toward recovery. Being prepared will improve your odds.
When a crisis hits you or your organization, you need to ask a couple of questions that could help you avoid liability claims and strengthen your position in the market.
- Who cares? That’s the first question you need to ask as it identifies the stakeholders to your situation. In broad terms, those folks include:
- Family members
- Public safety
- Policy makers
- News media
- Why do they care? If people have a stake in your business, you need to speak to their interest. Employees need to know what’s going on as they are all unofficial spokespeople for your enterprise. Customers want to know if they will continue to receive your products or services. Even your competitors need to know the extent to which you are operational or impaired. If you have good information in the hands of everyone who cares, it’s hard to spin a different story or try to confuse the message.
- How can you reach these stakeholders quickly and effectively? It is essential that your email contact list include a distribution list for these eventualities. That same list ought to include telephone and cell numbers as well as mailing addresses. It would be smart to also have home phone numbers for key contacts should your crisis occur overnight, on a weekend or during a holiday.
- Who will speak for your company? It depends. The spokesperson needs to be knowledgeable as well as articulate and believable. Trust is the underpinning of communications but particularly in a crisis. When people are looking for answers, guidance or assurances, having the right messenger can really make a difference. Most often a serious crisis requires the boss to speak and be available – unless, of course, it’s the boss who is in trouble.
- Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It takes multiple impressions to get the full extent of your message across so that others can repeat it accurately. Whatever message you choose, it needs to be true, consistent, to the point and delivered often particularly in the initial hours and days. Regular updates also need to be issued that track your recovery and return to full operations.
Knowing your message; having the right messenger; and delivering it through the most effective media will enable you to say, “It happened. We’re sorry it happened. We are doing everything possible to make whole those who have been impacted. We are working with the authorities / creditors to be sure it never happens again.”
So how do you take advantage of “good” crisis?
Once your stakeholders and the news reporters have the information they need, you then have time to talk about your business.
What might that include?
- The attributes and value of your products or services
- Your talented people and their impact in the community
- How long you have served your customers faithfully and reliably
- Your historic roots in the community
- Innovations you’ve introduced or leadership you have provided
- New products or services that are in the works
If you plan to recover from your crisis, it is helpful to articulate what your future holds so all your stakeholders can envision your success.
Perhaps the best risk control you can do right now is imagine the five things you think could impair your business and then do a plan for each of them. Get your team to contribute to the plan and go over how you would respond at least once a year. Doing a dry run helps identify the threats and will allow you to minimize the risk.
And remember, your insurance agent is one of the best resources to help you go through that process.