The potential for disaster to strike your organisation is ever present and the cardinal sin is to be caught unprepared. History is full of case studies of organisations that thought, “It won’t happen here!”, so don’t let that be you. The challenge of course is what to think about when starting the process of preparing for something you really don’t want to happen.

Help is at hand! As a start point it is a great first step to think about the five key principles of effective crisis management and crisis communication. Consideration of the principles at the start of a planning process works well and they also provide a good test of your responses at the time you are dealing with an issue.

So, what are the 5 key principles?

1. Leadership

When things go wrong people look to leaders. At the time of a crisis the senior figures within your organisation need to be seen to be taking charge and providing direction. They step up and take responsibility, they become figureheads, they offer reassurance they encourage action. They lead.

2. The existence of a plan

At the time of an incident you cannot make it up as you go along and trust to luck. It is vital you have taken time to assess the risks your organisation faces and then put plans in place to address those risks. Whilst every incident is different in some way, having a starting framework of response actions is hugely helpful. Think about the people you need, the processes you will follow, the places they will go and the resources they need.

3. Meaningful and visible action

Whatever actions you take to address the incident you face those actions must be both meaningful and visible. Meaningful, so that people would recognise that your actions are going to deal with the situation effectively, and visible so everyone knows you are fixing it. Do not be guilty of shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic!

4. Communication

Strong organisations communicate well and are able to deal with the sudden and large scale change that crises bring. Good internal communication enables flexibility and quick decision making and keeps everyone heading in the same direction. Externally people need to know that appropriate actions are being taken and the way to provide that knowledge is through communication. Unless you are able to tell people that you are in control then they will assume you are not. At the time of an incident any communication void is filled with rumour, speculation and factual inaccuracy so your organisation must communicate to fill the void with meaningful, timely and accurate information.

5. People first!

Whatever form your crisis, issue or incident takes, somewhere within that will be people. The more people that are affected, the more directly and the more adversely they are affected then the bigger your crisis will be. In your response it is imperative that you address the needs and concerns of people. Putting people first is the right thing to do and showing you care is great reputation management and makes good business sense.

If you’d like to find out more about how the FCM team can support you with preparing for a crisis, please contact Karen McElroy on 07789 004708 or karen@fcm-associates.co.uk