Author's Name: Mark Schultz
Date: Wed 16 Nov 2016

Managing the aftermath of a crisis

Whether a crisis is something of your own making or as a result of something completely out of your control, a Board should have in place a process and approach to manage the aftermath. Recent events such as the Dreamworld tragedy and the Samsung mobile phone debacle give us a timely reminder that we should have in place a crisis management plan to assist both the organisation and individuals navigate what could be a very difficult times for everyone. In this article, we will provide a summary of the critical steps a board should have in place to assist manage the aftermath of a crisis.

Have a plan: a crisis can hit at anytime and anywhere in your organisation and a board must take a leadership role in putting a plan to deal with the situation. When a crisis occurs, the moment will be stressful for all concerned and it is important to have a plan to refer to; this will provide a pathway to manage all the actions and communication that will be required immediately after the situation occurs and in the short term thereafter. The plan should include specific actions ( including who should be contacted, telephone numbers, email addresses) allocation of responsibilities and feedback mechanisms to demonstrate to all stakeholders that you acknowledge the situation and taking a leadership role, that people are your primary concern and you are not shying away from your responsibilities.

Nominate a spokesperson: if the media is involved, it is critical to have a nominated spokesperson and that this person should be the most senior person in the organisation. In addition, depending on the event, the Chairman of the board should also participate in both internal and external forums. The message should be clear, concise and consistent and the spokesperson/s should be well prepared. This is not the time for “off the cuff” commentary.

Be honest and open: there is no room for “spin doctors” in the aftermath of a crisis. People in general and the media in particular recognise and call out this type of behaviour and it is generally counterproductive. Be as open and honest as possible in all forms of internal and external communication. This will assist to diffuse rumours and contribute to stopping the situation escalating further beyond your control. Human nature generally forgives honestly more readily than manipulation of a situation.

Communication: firstly with employees, to ensure the right information is being transmitted, leadership is demonstrated and rumours stopped in their tracks and don’t forget social media. In addition, think about your customers/clients and suppliers. How do you want these stakeholders to find out about the situation? Do you want to manage the situation or let someone else do it for you? The consequences of your decisions in relation to communication of what and to whom can be either positive or negative, depending on your approach; it’s in your hands.

Update early and often: do not be tardy in making a public response, but do be prepared. Having thought about crisis management is a non-crisis environment allows the organisation to consider the strategy from all perspectives and then have something to refer to in a time of need. Keep all stakeholders updated as the situation unfolds; a one-off communique is almost as ineffective as none at all.

Remember social media: social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on your approach. It is a very important means of communication and one that cannot be ignore by the board and the leadership team. Again, having though about how you would manage this prior to an adverse event happening will put you in good stead when one actually happens.

Like developing a general risk management plan, the more diverse group of people you engage with, the better the outcome achieved. Different individuals provide different “life lens’ “and a crisis management plan that has been created by such a group will more likely consider the situation from a much broader perspective and the resultant plan is likely to be so much more effective. Furthermore, consider the situation that the organisation will find itself in when it turns to its crisis management plan and ensure conciseness, clarity, currency and therefore that it is updated on an annual basis. And finally, let’s hope that this is one plan that actually does sit in the bookcase and never have to be read!

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