Crisis Management Tips to Navigate COVID-19

The first step is to develop a crisis management plan, which begins with a risk assessment that identifies the current threats that will disrupt or derail your business operations.

Work with members of leadership and crisis response team and other key stakeholders to identify all relevant threats or vulnerabilities that could impact your company’s, financial health, reputation or ability to stay in business.

After you have identified all threats, drill down to the negative impacts of each threat, including:

  • Lost or delayed sales and income
  • A reduction in workforce from illness or layoffs, resulting in an inability to deliver current orders for products and services
  • Workflow issues due to remote working or mandated shutdowns
  • Customer dissatisfaction or attrition
  • Inability to access needed capital
  • Unplanned expenses
  • Regulatory fines
  • Litigation
  • A damaged company reputation
  • And more…

Now that you have determined all of the threats, identify and prioritize the resources that your organization can and cannot do without, such as employees, IT systems, and specific facilities and physical assets. You should be thinking about any and all critical systems, vendors and employees that would dramatically impact service levels if they were suddenly unavailable. Your projects could be at risk if any of these resources are absent.

Next, you must identify which actions and resources will help your company respond effectively to each threat. Think about the steps that would be required to resolve each threat, what resources would be required, and how employees can help.

Start your planning with the highest-priority threats—usually those that are most likely to occur and would have the biggest impact on your operations. Later, you can draft plans for each lower-priority risk.

As you draft a plan in response to each threat, ask yourself what steps would have to be taken for the organization to resume normal operations. Consider things like communications, staff responsibilities and project timelines.

Once you’ve determined an effective plan for each threat, flesh out plans with involvement from relevant stakeholders. Key employees such as department heads can provide insight into available resources and potential hurdles. For certain threats you may also need input from outside parties, such as partners or suppliers that work closely with your business.

It’s important that all employees understand their roles during a crisis. Remember, stress and panic can make it difficult to remember each role in a crisis; however, there are two ways to mitigate the effects of stress.

First, ensure that your stakeholders have the information they need. During a crisis, people require timely and straightforward information. Consider ways to quickly and effectively distribute information, contact lists, messaging, tools and more.

Second, be sure to frequently train employees on how to carry out your crisis management plan. Make sure that every individual is familiar with the plan, can respond confidently, knows where to get additional information, and understands his or her role.

Once your plan is completed, test the plan (time permitting) before implementation. It’s important to keep the plan updated as your situation changes, especially if employees leave the company, new technologies are implemented, and other changes occur that impact your operations.

Following the crisis, it’s wise to review and test the plan at least a few times a year to keep the plan fresh for the next crisis or major issue — which sooner or later, will happen again.

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– Caliber Group CEO, Linda Welter, is a veteran brand reputation and crisis communications expert based in Tucson, Arizona with more than 20 years of experience helping businesses build, position and protect company brand reputations. She has helped the leadership of multiple organizations successfully navigate crises and major issues during times of great uncertainty, including business closures, layoffs, foodborne illness outbreaks, unplanned leadership changes, mergers and acquisitions, arson, litigation, and accusations of corporate wrong doing.

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