When facing a crisis, take two minutes to step back and breathe. Clear your mind so you are well-prepared to be a strong leader. You may have already put together an action plan with multiple touch points that you need to execute. And if you haven’t, that plan will look something like this:
Step 1: Harness Your Department Heads
When a crisis hits, your team will feel the need to run in numerous directions at once. Information will fall through the cracks. Employees will feel confused and panic may strike. Communication must be part of your action plan. Unfortunately, you can’t clone yourself. But you can delegate responsibilities and rely on your department heads to distribute information in whatever form or medium needed to reach the right people. It should be clear to everyone what they need to do and who they need to contact. The more efficiently you can educate your team and stakeholders, the better.
Step 2: Rely on Advisers
Nearly every organization relies on external advisers. These folks should be part of your crisis communications plan. Before a disaster even strikes, you should have a team ready to go. In some cases, you may need to position your lawyers to work with your technologists and PR contacts. Keep your action plan in writing, and make sure that your advisers are on board. If you are using outside vendors to run your IT systems, ensure you have risk/action plans in place for when disaster strikes.
Step 3: Inspire Empathy
It’s difficult to prepare for every crisis, but when the chaos hits, it’s inevitable that people are going to get frustrated. Customers will be mad about what’s been lost, whether it be orders, data or time. Employees will be stressed. And it’s up to those in leadership to keep the peace. Remind your team that you’re all in this struggle together. Some customers will be angry, but the best you can do is be strong and empathize with the people affected by the crisis, whatever it may be. And not in an overly corporate way that lacks feeling or emotion. You’re all human – now is the time to act like it.
Step 4: Deploy Technology
Depending on the severity of the situation, technology can help to centralize communication with teammates, customers and family members. Develop a multi-tiered strategy with multiple touch points. For instance, in the event of a natural disaster, a multi-platform alert service will be crucial. Make sure that you can quickly and easily access your team members’ emergency contacts as well. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook will give you a connection to the public and can even help in communicating with employees.
Step 5: Make Protocols Accessible
Emergency protocols should be well-documented and thoroughly planned. Employees should know where to find them. In addition to hosting documents on your company’s HR portal, make sure that everyone has their own paper copy.
Final Thoughts: Balance Planning and Reacting
Plans are only half the equation. When a crisis hits, you and your teams will need to improvise. Don’t expect everything to happen by the book, and encourage employees to use their best judgment. When in doubt, respond to the moment. A plan can only take you so far.