Taking the time to lay out a plan of action should a crisis hit your business ensures that you will not only be ready for the unexpected, but it will be handled more smoothly and efficiently.
So, what is a crisis? Technically, an unexpected event that seems to defy the standard solutions and must be dealt with immediately. It’s the middle part that makes them so scary: for a time, at least, the normal processes don’t work, such as during natural disasters, riots, system breakdowns, economic disruptions and scandals.
What do you do when business as usual breaks down? You work hard to restore order, promise a full inquiry into what went wrong and speak directly, clearly and fully to three audiences:
- those dealing with the crisis
- those most affected by it
- everyone else in your community
Be sure to speak carefully when speaking publicly, to help avoid legal issues down the road. The difference between private management and public management is the public part. As a result, what you say to citizens about the crisis and your efforts to resolve it is every bit as important as what you do.
The first thing you can do to prepare for a crisis is to think about how order might be restored in a range of calamities. The second thing is to think about how you would communicate these things to a frightened or angry public. The third thing is to get to know those you’ll depend on in these situations, such as police, fire, public works, civil defense, key city hall staff, disaster-relief organizations and so on.
Mock disaster exercises can also help you prepare. Think of it as a dress rehearsal during a time when you can afford to see what works, what doesn’t and where you may hit potential potholes. That’s also the time you can come up with solutions to better prepare for when a crisis strikes.
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