Some crises come out of the blue and without warning, but in reality that is pretty rare. For most crises, there are warning signs that often go ignored. For example, the number one cause of home fires other than cooking is portable home heaters. These units are left too close to bedding, laundry and other flammable materials. While this is clearly a fire hazard it is too often ignored until it’s too late. Crises in the workplace are no different: Instead of a portable heater, danger might be lurking within the accounting department, within the behavior of employees, or as the result of Mother Nature. Simply recognizing the threats and taking action can help to avoid or manage disaster.
The bottom line is that crises can and should be anticipated. All companies should conduct crisis evaluations to identify vulnerabilities, and develop steps for how the company will manage crises.
Corporate crisis plans don’t necessarily have to detail every single possible crisis situation on the planet, but they do need to include a one size fits all process for how crises should be managed. At a minimum every company and organization should have in place a crisis team (to include senior executives), a method for the team to communicate in the event of a crisis, and basic steps for how to address a number of likely scenarios.
Tuckahoe Strategies has developed a simple acronym to help clients manage crisis situations called FACTS.
Find out what happened from sources closest to situation. Accurate information is essential when it comes to crisis management. Bad information tends to move quickly between many sources in crises, so it is important that the facts are established by credible sources even if it means taking a little more time in the heat of the situation.
Assess the damage/fallout. It is important to be able to make a determination about what has happened, what it means, and to whom. Is it a two-day problem or a two-year problem? How does it affect your corporate reputation? Your customers? The crisis manager needs to be able to understand the severity of the situation in order to effectively update the crisis team.
Crisis team to consider available options. At this stage the crisis team should be assembled (as per the corporate crisis plan) and updated with current information about what happened and who is affected. While it is important for this team to take quick and meaningful action, it is just important that the team does not overreact either.
Take action where possible. Crisis teams must include senior executives with decision-making power. What action the company takes (or doesn’t take) will set the tone for the remainder of the situation. It’s not necessary to attempt to resolve the entirety of the crisis at this stage, but swift, reasonable action will put the company in control and in the driver’s seat.
Speak as the authoritative voice to key audiences. Say something! Sometimes, just letting your key audiences know that you are aware of the situation and on the job is enough as a first step. Silence is a killer. Organizations that have a crisis plan in place will usually have draft holding statements on the ready. If you are not controlling the message then surely someone else will – often with wrong information.