The people behind your crisis management plans are often overlooked but, the truth is, your team is one of the most crucial drivers of success. You wouldn’t put just anyone in the pilot seat of an aeroplane, and nor should you just automatically assign your whole C-suite to the head of the crisis management table
Instead, what is required is the insight of an experienced team who have the combined skills to handle an emergency. By devising a strong line-up that can cope with implementing an effective response effort, you can ensure the smooth roll-out of your crisis management plans.
What is a Crisis Management Team?
The crisis management team holds responsibility for the leadership, management, communication, and damage assessment aspects of a crisis. The individuals within the group should be the key source of authority for both emergency planning, and emergency response,
A quick and correct response to a crisis is critical, and, by proactively establishing a team, businesses can respond faster, better perform under pressure, and prepare for any potential shortcomings.
Who Makes the Cut?
If you’re experiencing a public relations crisis, it’s unlikely that Steve, head of accounting, will be your go-to guy. However, Steve might be useful in a financial incident – what this goes to show is that there isn't a one-size-fits-all, siloed approach to crisis management.
The ideal crisis management team should incorporate a broad range of staff members from different departments, all of whom are trusted by your senior board, and have the knowledge and experience to deal with your business’s likely emergencies.
Only 42% of organisations can claim to have clearly defined roles for a crisis – and many find that this causes delays in turning their plans into decisive action. It’s essential to avoid disorganised teams and know who will act in each possible situation, as this ensures that every potential shortfall can be recognised and dealt with by an individual who has the necessary expertise.
Additionally, a diverse team increases the likelihood of cross-department interactions – leading to greater problem-solving methods and a better chance of spotting problems before they occur. To provide this diversity, your crisis management line-up should include:
- a senior board representative
- heads of departments
- an executive representative
- director of communication/marketing
- legal counsel
Depending on your industry, this list can vary. However, it should always include enough role diversity so that, if a crisis occurs, the most relevant members of your team can take leadership. They can use their skills to implement an appropriate response strategy and – as the group is already organised – they can also access additional expertise from the rest of the crisis management team. As the group is already assembled, it's easier to obtain information, execute your contingency plan, and recover from an emergency.
How to Empower Your Crisis Management Team
A strong crisis management team will be decisive, well-equipped, and prepared for any situation. However, these three qualities can only be achieved if you empower your team with the tools and support to plan and implement a robust strategy. Here are a few steps you can take to increase the credibility of your crisis management team and streamline their processes:
1. Gain Senior Management Buy-in
Your senior management will be pivotal in implementing a crisis management strategy. As the highest level of authority in a business, the senior team are most effective at communicating messages company-wide. Moreover, the C-suite plays a crucial role in business decision-making – with their management and input, your team will have a higher level of command.
Additionally, by having your senior management on-board, your crisis management team is better equipped to deliver key communications across your business, or publicly. C-level staff are often the public face of a crisis, so their sponsorship and involvement will be critical for the leadership and communication aspects of crisis management.
Lastly, senior buy-in ensures that your crisis management team can obtain the essential resources they need to carry out successful management of an emergency. In many businesses, it’s likely that more than one form of crisis can occur, so a situation can’t be tackled with just one approach. Senior management has the power to source the tools, people, and support that are needed to execute a plan – so their engagement in crisis planning is critical.
2, Mitigate Risks
Starting off on the wrong foot can be disastrous when you need to quickly execute your emergency plans, so it’s best to assess and reduce potential problems before they occur. This can be achieved by identifying what aspects of your plan can go wrong – and taking steps to reduce their impact.
The value of risk mitigation lies in its ability to change mind-sets and challenge assumptions, thus empowering your crisis management team's decision-making. If all the potential issues with your crisis management plans have been identified, your team can execute a strategy with the confidence it'll work. Risks can be identified by performing table top exercises, carrying out a scenario practice, or through staff training procedures. These activities can help you identify the shortfalls of your current plans, and reassess or redevelop a strategy.
3, Provide the Tools for Success
Crisis planning is no longer a case of executing step A, followed by B. The potential for things to go wrong can come from many different directions, so your team should be able to access essential information rapidly to ensure they know the next steps to take.
When devising a plan, it’s not enough to record your strategy on a document/spreadsheet, or as notes shared via email. Robust crisis planning tools can help your team to prepare and structure their strategy while also ensuring they have the ability to quickly recall and execute their plans. If your teams are equipped with the resources that can best help them deploy a plan, their chances of success will be higher.
4. Keep Your Plans Up-To-Date
Your crisis management team should have access to the tools that enable them to routinely ensure their crisis management plans are relevant and up-to-date.
Crisis management systems can allow your team to set expiry dates, revision periods, and automated reminders for their plans – serving as a aide-mémoire for members of the team who will likely have numerous day-to-day responsibilities that need their attention. By equipping crisis teams with a robust system, businesses can empower them to work more productively and reassure the rest of the business that their strategy is fool-proof.
Preparation is Key
When it comes to a business crisis, it's almost impossible to predict how it will occur, or what will happen next. The way your business reacts is critical, and by being prepared, businesses experience better decision-making, and quicker recovery times.
Only 30% of businesses recover from a crisis in less than a year. But by developing a team of people who are equipped with the knowledge and software to tackle a crisis, businesses are more likely to return to their pre-crisis state, without incurring damage to reputation, finances, or morale. Your crisis management team is integral to executing a strategy that will safeguard these aspects of your business, so it's important they're not overlooked.