A crisis is any event that causes disturbance to your business – and these potential crises vary in severity. When a major crisis occurs, it creates a situation that demands fast action with little to no room for error. For the sake of such occurrences, a crisis management plan is an essential tool of business.
Here are some interesting statistics on crisis management to put you in the right frame of mind:
- In a survey conducted by PwC, only 39% of US respondents said they had a crisis management plan that was “very relevant”.
- Many US organizations have found that crises accompany other crises ,as 80% say that they experienced a secondary crisis worsened by COVID-19 pandemic.
- According to a report by Crisp and PR News, 54% of marketers cite prompt reaction to crises as one of their biggest issues in crisis management. Preparing the proper response comes second and securing adequate resources third, at 52% and 48% respectively.
What is a Crisis Management Plan?
A crisis management plan is a strategy designed to guide the actions taken by a business to prevent or mitigate crises.
What Does a Crisis Management Plan Do for Brands?
The purpose of a crisis management plan is to minimize the occurrence and damage of crises to business. If well-designed, the plan should include a list of potential risks as well as their probability. From a financial standpoint, this helps with determining the required budget for dealing with a particular crises. From a management standpoint, it allows for easy decision making, and also, transfer of power.
The plan should also have response procedures detailing the response team and each person’s role. It will also have an activation protocol clarifying which actions should be taken at different stages of a crisis. Further, a good crisis management plan includes a post-crisis assessment that helps determine the effectiveness of response and improve the plan.
Without a practical crisis management plan, the lack of planning becomes a major weakness in dealing with crises. So, here are eight steps to keep your business strong!
8 Steps to an Effective Crisis Management Plan
1. Establish a Brand Baseline
Start your crisis management plan with an analysis of your brand’s position in the market. This includes your influence in the industry, consumer perception, and ranking compared to competitors. This baseline will serve as a reference point in future.
Brand tracking can help you determine your position in the market. It is simply the routine monitoring of the health of your brand by examining relevant KPIs such as awareness, preference, and association. You can determine these factors through consumer sentiment analysis and competitor analysis.
Having established a brand baseline, you will be able to determine the impact or potential impact of a crisis on your market standing. Further, you will know when you have restored your position, in case a crisis sinks your brand below the baseline.
2. Assess Potential Risks
Your brand faces many different kinds of risks, with varying degrees of seriousness. Potential risk assessment is an attempt to approximate the possibility of certain risks. Identifying possible crises can help you better protect yourself against them and mitigate their impact if they do occur.
Usually, crises are not detected until they happen or get close. This is because there is no definite way to determine what crisis is going to hit next. During risk assessment, businesses rely on past experience to make reasonable estimates of what could happen.
Despite the unpredictability of crises, there are certain constants that you can rely on. For instance, you can group your potential risks into categories such as cyber-security, natural, and customer service crises. You also know that these crises may result from inside the organization (internal) or outside (external). And it can be further broken down by segmenting target audience conversation using a ‘personal narrative theme,’ which extracts I statements attached to meaning. This knowledge can help you assess potential risks more accurately, as you can dig in and see what, specifically people are saying they love, hate and so on – and know when that shifts!
3. Partner with Category Influencers and Monitor KOLs
Influencers and key opinion leaders (KOLs) are instrumental in shaping public opinion. Your crisis management plan should include forming partnerships with influencers and monitoring KOLs in your industry. These relationships will not only help you to promote your brand during calm but also manage crises.
To cultivate these relationships, you must first identify the people. Social listening tools can reveal to you the people driving conversations in your industry as well as their level of influence. Identify those that best match your brand. It would help if they already love your brand; this is especially true of KOLs who do not typically accept payment nor partner with brands for any reason beyond appreciating its value to the market. Having your brand on KOLs’ radar is great, but if that isn’t possible, just knowing who and how they are can be enough to alert you to shifting winds.
Your influencers are the true change-makers for your brand when crisis hits, so establishing partnerships and clear communication expectations is key. Strengthen the relationship by allowing the influencer freedom in how they create content and express their opinions. The more authentic, the better. And it will be crucial to know and trust your influencer’s typical posting activity to confidently allow this.
4. Set Notification Alerts for Sentiment, Keywords, and Volume Spikes
Bad news makes its way around the world before good news has had a chance to put on pants. In the current interconnectedness of the world, crisis teams face increasing pressure to respond quickly and appropriately. Thankfully, the same factors that create the challenge also make it easier for crisis responders to do their job.
By keeping a watchful eye on the goings-on in the media and internet, you can avert many crises by acting on the signals. Notifications for sentiment drops, keyword mentions, hashtags, and volume spikes can help you remain on high alert for emerging crises.
When you delay in responding to a crisis, the information vacuum that results can attract undesirable speculations which exacerbate the problem. Strengthen your crisis management plan by setting notification alerts for crises signals, including particular keywords or spikes in brand mentions to let you know immediately when something is amiss:
5. Quickly Determine the Source of Crisis
Once you learn of a crisis, immediately focus on discovering what caused it. This will help you determine the most effective course of action.
For instance, research has revealed that customers are more likely to speak out about a bad experience than a good one. An unfortunate incident may unnecessarily cause you a PR headache. You can save yourself the pain by staying watchful of bad reviews. If a section of social media is expressing dissatisfaction with your brand, for instance, identify who brought up the topic and find ways to change the conversation. And this only works if you connect back on the channel or forum where the conversation is happening!
6. Craft Messaging to Get Ahead of or Shape the Narrative
A proper crisis management plan is as dependent on quick response as it is on appropriate response. Whether your crisis is about leaked customer information, poor customer service, or a natural disaster, the right message can help you maintain a positive reputation and keep the relationship going with your employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
However, crafting an appropriate response during such a time of intense pressure is easier said than done. Having a predetermined process of going about it can help you remain calm under the tension.
Firstly, always address the elephant in the room. Avoiding the issue only worsens the situation. Second, maintain trust by speaking honestly and transparently. Third, avoid falling into blame game and defensiveness. Fourth, talk about what you are going to do to fix the situation, don’t just issue a statement with no solutions or value.
7. Activate Influencers to Spread Awareness as Needed
The relationships you created on Step 3 come to your aid during a crisis. Influencers are a great way to help get your message across and undo what speculators and detractors might have done.
Make a list of important influencers whom you can contact during a crisis. Then have a plan to activate them in case it happens.
There are different ways through which you can integrate influencers into your crisis management plan. Influencers can connect you with media personalities who will help push your message further. They can also share your message directly with their audience where they enjoy much authority. When you need your message to reach specific types of audiences, influencers can be a great help. They have very niche, carefully curated followings – and they have an ongoing connection with them through authentic conversations about things that matter. This makes all the difference when you need them to list – these influencers have their ear, and hearts.
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8. Ongoing Social, Web, and Market Monitoring
A good crisis management plan is one which is always on the job, not just when crises hit. You want to remain on the lookout for any emerging situations.
Specifically, you should deploy ongoing monitoring of social media. A crisis that begins on social media can get out of hand very quickly. Other areas of the web need monitoring too. This includes forums, review sites, online stores where you have products, and even your own website. Finally, you need to keep a close watch on your own market. Make note of any changes in customer expectations, new technology, and how competitors do business.
The business environment is fraught with crises. Businesses face different risks and costs of crises depending on industry, location, and other factors. However, the foregoing procedure is designed to work for any sort of crisis. That said, you must develop your own crisis management plan as per your business. If you would like to see how NetBase Quid helps its clients to avoid and minimize the cost of crises, reach out for a demo today!