Until last year, the notion of a deadly virus disrupting businesses worldwide wasn’t on many people’s radars, underscoring the very nature of crisis.  

The broad range of crises that a business could be faced with at any moment are often inherently difficult to predict. That’s why it’s vital to be on the front foot and have a dedicated issues management strategy in place that will help you respond to an unforeseen crisis. 

Planning for the unknown sounds like an impossible task, but it’s not. There are key steps and frameworks a business can put in place to mitigate future issues, no matter the situation or industry. 

Key steps to help businesses be ready and recover faster when the next crisis hits 

Issues analysis 

The most important first step is to undertake an issues analysis. It can be hard to determine where to start when facing the unknown, but the best place to start is by asking a few questions to identify risks and outcomes. 

Questions to ask yourself include: What threats could your business face? What is the likelihood of these issues happening? What would be the impact on the business if these issues did happen? Who will be affected? 

During the analysis stage, it is also important to consider the people who will be helpful during an issue, and those who will hinder the situation. For example, if faced with a community issue, does your business have allies who can show support and are well placed to share a message? Who are likely to be your doubters and how will you communicate to them? 

Preparation and Prevention 

The more prepared you are and the faster you can take control of the situation and the better the outcome. 

An incident traffic light system is a great tool which allows anyone in the business to identify when there’s a crisis. This system helps employees recognise when they are faced with a minor concern, and when there is a larger issue at play which should be escalated.  

When a crisis strikes, it is vital to know who should be called in to manage the situation. Without a team in place, precious time will be wasted identifying the best individuals to handle the crisis.  

A clear response 

In crisis situations, the golden rule is ‘the longer it takes you to respond, the longer it will last’. If you have a plan in place, you can tailor it to the context of the particular issue at hand. 

Companies need to have a clear understanding of what the issue and the need to be authentic in their responses. The solution should be acted on (not just talked about). You show concern, put the issue into context, communicate what actions you are taking to address the situation and what you want your audiences to do.  

What happens next? 

Following a crisis, it’s important to reflect on what did and didn’t work, and identify how best to prepare for future uncertainties. What processes worked? What needs to change? What did we learn? 

All crises are different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach, which is why it’s important to have a framework in place offering guidance to employees and stakeholders on their respective roles and responsibilities.  

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Timeless words from Benjamin Franklin that ring true more than ever in times of rising crisis and uncertainty.  

If you need help with your crisis response plan, ask the IMPACT team here.