It is very important that companies are prepared for possible times of crisis. It is known that all companies are susceptible to risks, but some companies such as airliners, airports, companies that are locate in dangerous areas and companies that deal with threatening duties must have a pre established crisis plan, in order to be ready to emergencies. These pre established crisis plan must be crafted carefully and even though this is a mandatory request for companies, the team must have in mind that crisis is, in fact a situation that requires much more than merely consultation to theoretical documents.
Theoretically, there are specific ways that we can address and prepare for a crisis. On his book, Combs stated it clearly: “All organizations should preparer to handle crisis by addressing six concerns: (1) diagnosing vulnerabilities, (2) assessing crisis types, (3) selecting and training a crisis team, (4) selecting and training a spokesperson, (5) developing a crisis management plan, (6) reviewing the crisis communication system”. (combs p. 71)
When a crisis arrive, the crisis management team can and should refer to theoretical guidelines, pre established in crisis preparation documents but they should not really entirely on it, because the actual crisis require its unique demands and there will be times that either the instructions that should be taken are not written, or cases where what is written will not correspond to the right action to be taken. Let’s now discuss each one of these six crisis concerns.
- Diagnosing Vulnerabilities
It is important that each company brainstorm what are the possible risks that the company might face. This should be discussed specifically by the crisis department team, but also across other departments. By doing this, the company will suggest different angles and ideas of possible risks. These possible risks could be related, for instance to geographical location, where the company is more vulnerable to natural disasters, another example is terrorism, or possible problems due to overcrowd. It will entirely depend of the type of business a company is running and all possible thought risks should be considered. (Combs, 2000)
- Assessing Crisis Types
After identifying the weaknesses of the company, then it is time classify possible types of crisis that might emerge from this analysis. Combs says that this list is “relatively long and includes accidents, activist actions, boycotts, earthquakes, explosion, chemical leaks, rumors, deaths, fire (…)” (combs p. 72). Along with identifying crisis types, companies should develop a Crisis management Plan (CMP). Even though it is not possible to create a CMP for all potential crisis a company might face, it is extremely important to list the most imminent risks and create specific plans for each one of the most important, or more likely to happen situations ( Pauchant & Mitroff, 1992).
- Selecting And Training A Crisis Team
A crisis team will be responsible to develop and work on a crisis management plan (CMP). This team should be carefully chosen by training selection, where one could have an idea if a particular person is suitable to this function or not (Goldstein, 1993). Successful past experiences will obviously really count and “the key to selection and training is the identification of the characteristics (knowledge, skills and traits) people need to perform their jobs”. (Goldstein 1993, Comb p. 76).
It is also important to always have a backup crisis team members in order to assure that there will be enough people entitled to work on unexpected issues, if one of the offical member team is away or even for extreme situations where the normal number of members will not be enough, in case of shifts scales, and other surprises. In all cases, all members of a crisis management team must be constantly trained and should always be refreshed and take part on simulations in order to be prepared.
- Selecting And Training A Spokesperson
The spokesperson responsibility is to manage the accuracy and consistency of the message a company needs to communicate during the crisis (Caney & Jorden, 1993; Seitel, 1983). They will be responsible for the message management and a company can and should have more than one person in charge of message management, for a number of reasons, for example, if the crisis extends for long days, the company should be able to rotate from one spokeman to another. Another reason is that one person cannot be in charge to represent and know everything about every department of the company, in a way that this is indicated that different departments should have its own spokesperson (if possible) who would be qualified to represent the same message across the media (Lerbinger, 1997).
- Developing A Crisis Management Plan (CMP)
A crisis management plan should be created in advance, with the possible actions that should be taken once the crisis occur. It should include details of a plan of action, pre established messages, what we could call the first AID for the company once a crisis arrive. Even though CMP claims for some detailed information, it should not be very long (Barton, 2001; Combs, 2006a). CMPs must be user friendly, simple and it should be utilised as a checklist rather than a step by step guide.
CMPs are composed by (1) cover page, (2) introduction, (3) Acknowledgement form, which each employee should read and sign declaring that has red the CMP, (4) Rehearsal Dates Page, section that assures when the CPM was last updated, (5) First-Action page, which identifies who is in charge of the crisis emergency and how to reach them, who should be contacting the necessary staff, (6) Crisis Management Team Contact Sheet, (7) Crisis risk assessment section identifies the possible crisis the company might face, evaluate risks and impacts. (8) Incident report sheet, (9) Proprietary information section, (10) Crisis management team communication strategy worksheet, (11) Secondary contact Sheet, (12) Stakeholders contact worksheet, (13) Business continuity plan ( Combs 2000).
- Reviewing The Crisis Communication System
The crisis communication system represents pre settled, pre established ways to deliver information once the crisis occurs. It can be a series of messages that should be sent to employees, clients and general population. It relates what is happening, how to deal with the situation, what to do during the crises, where to go to obtain more information (such as websites) as well as how to deliver information on social media, news media in general, internet and intranet.
One important aspect of the communication system is the “mass notification system”, where the crisis team must deliver information to its audience. This should be done as soon as possible to avoid speculation and other sources to give erroneous information. In addition, this is important to have the communication channels of the company (such as social media and website) holding the company’s version of the situation.