Crises come in all forms: health; humanitarian; natural disaster; technological; financial; family; community; etc. And though circumstances change, your response shouldn’t.
In early 2020, COVID19 brought a harsh reality to many organizations and businesses around the world that they weren’t ready for a significant crisis. But while everyone is practicing social distancing, it’s a good idea to reflect on what has already happened, and how it could have been handled better.
Crises WILL happen. And the best way to be prepared is to acknowledge that fact. Here are some important steps you must take to prepare for the next crisis:
Crises will happen. It’s inevitable. Regardless of their severity, your business could find itself in a tough spot. And paying attention to the news, trends, types of crises that could significantly impact your business can be a great way to soften the blow should something happen.
The best thing you could possibility do is accept reality and plan for the worst. The content of your contingency plan varies by industry and populations served. But a skeleton plan is better than being blindsided and can buy you some valuable think time.
Though your organization might be small (or even just you), you should make sure you have someone serving as:
Batten down the hatches. But do your best to communicate as early as possible. Even if your plan isn’t in full motion, it’s best to acknowledge the crisis and notify the audience that you are developing a more robust plan and will communicate as soon as details are ironed out.
A crisis can really take a toll on a business. But it shouldn’t take a toll on your organization’s confidence in its ability to mitigate. Be transparent and authentic about what’s going on and what you’re doing to fix it. And for goodness sakes, please avoid “no comment.” Pro Tip: If you don’t want to comment, you can answer with something like, “Let me go back to my team with my question to get the answer.”
Depending on the type of crisis, people who are close to your organization will be waiting to hear from you once you’ve communicated. Especially if you’ve said you’d communicate with more details later, you should prioritize actually communicating those more details. You can also work with your communications lead to draft some key messages and create template responses for the entire team to use.
You should ALWAYS have your audience in mind, but you want to be super sensitive about how they may take your messaging. It’s okay if you soften or strengthen your messaging for specific audiences (whether that be actual segments or through different communication vehicles).
It’s a great habit to host debriefs after any big event. In this case, it’s a big event that was unplanned. While it’s still fresh in your team’s minds, have a discussion about what went well and what could have gone better. Then be sure to incorporate this feedback into your contingency plans for crises of the future.
Crises are taxing. And once you’ve weathered the storm, you deserve to take a breath. Treat yourself to some rest and relaxation, show gratitude to everyone who helped get the organization through it, and get ready to move forward.
We’re all in this together. Be kind, take care of your neighbors, and wash your hands.
For more tips about crisis planning, crisis communication, and business continuity for nonprofits, visit the Nonprofit Risk Management Center.