How should you respond in a crisis?

By 2015-11-04 Blog No Comments

Anyone who has been in business will know that things go wrong, people make mistakes and crisis do happen.

“Crisis” is a much over-used word these days and is usually on the front page of at least one daily newspaper – the NHS is in crisis, the England football team is in crisis, the government is in crisis, and so on – so let us agree here that when we say crisis we mean something that has gone badly wrong and needs to be fixed.

The first thing you must not do when an error occurs is bury your head in the sand and try to pretend it never happened. If your business or someone representing it has done something that has affected others, such as customers and end-users, the sooner you put your hand up and offer a rapid yet heartfelt apology the sooner you can start to put the issue behind you and move on.

Depending on the magnitude of the mistake, a company’s reputation can be badly damaged and may never fully recover, but consider how much better it is if people remember not just the error you made but the memorable way that you corrected it and/or apologised for it. And with the advent of social media, where many people are extremely eager to go online and post something that irks them, nipping something in the bud as quickly as possible can go a long way to reducing the amount of negative internet space devoted to your business.

Should the media get involved, once again you shouldn’t try to hide anything, so don’t even think about saying “No comment”. If you adopt that approach, the message you’re giving is that you have something to hide.

The most important thing you can be in a time of crisis is prepared – and that means constructing a plan of how you would react and what you would say. This doesn’t mean that any response you give would sound automated, just that you won’t be on the back foot and events won’t catch you off-guard. If you are not prepared, you could potentially make more mistakes, compounding the problem even further.

So, think about the things that could go wrong. Although you obviously do everything you can to avoid them, you might need to recall some of your products, you might have to announce several redundancies, you might even have to respond to an accident in the workplace. Think about how you would want to react to such events and come up with a plan.

You should also put together a team whose role is crisis management. Give them all specific responsibilities so that they know exactly what to do should something ever go wrong. A key person in this team would be the spokesperson – decide who should be ‘the face of the company’ and make sure they have appropriate training, including media training. If the media are going to report on a crisis, they will do it with or without a comment from yourselves – far better to have a comment and one made by someone who knows how to deal with the media. Remember, communication is key.

Any crisis is bound to make its way on to social media platforms, so you must have someone ready to monitor what is being said and respond in a way that is in line with your overall crisis plan. Obviously, it won’t help to get into a public discussion about an issue on Facebook, say, or LinkedIn, but it will help if your dedicated person can respond appropriately and professionally.

The one thing you can guarantee about a crisis is that it will end at some point. But that’s not really the end of it for you. You must get the crisis management team together to discuss what happened, how well the crisis plan worked, what has been learned and what could be done better next time (if there is a next time, of course). Regularly revisit your plan, rehearse it over and over so that the team is familiar with it, and make everyone in your company aware that your business will most definitely be on the front foot should anything ever go wrong again.

Finally, when you have all your staff together you need to discuss what happened and how you can prevent it from happening again. The one positive thing to take from a mistake is the lesson that is learned. If you can improve your processes, make people safer or provide a better service to customers, then the crisis has not been a complete disaster.

If you want to discuss any of  the issues raised in this blog, call us on 01785 247588 or email