Does Your Organization Need a Crisis Plan? (Hint: Yes)

Crises happen, and incident management is an essential facet in your strategy. Let’s go over some basics you’ll need should a crisis arise.
Taryn Hefner
August 10, 2020

Whether we want to admit it or not, crises happen, and crisis management is an essential facet in your business strategy. Let’s go over some basics you’ll need in order to effectively communicate with your organization, customers, and anyone who comes in contact with you, should a crisis arise. 

What is a crisis plan? 

A crisis plan is a general outline of how your organization will react and publicly respond to a crisis. The critical portion of this is that this is outlined before a crisis happens. You want to be sure that your organization is prepared in moments of tension to avoid acting or speaking from a knee-jerk reaction rather than a place of composure. This plan should also include an outline of who is responsible for specific action items so that no communication falls through the cracks. 

What counts as a crisis? 

There are some incidents that are simply snafus, like misprinting your mailing labels upside down. Other things that are life-altering, like fires, workplace tragedies, or natural disasters, warrant a response from affected organizations. Consider anything that affects livelihoods, involves violence or hate speech, or stalls production to be a crisis. 

What should be included in customer-facing crisis communication? 

  • Description of the incident 
  • Your organization’s response, follow up, or statement regarding the incident 
  • Details on what users or customers can do 
  • Contact information for follow up questions  

An example, following this outline: 

Dear valued customers, 

Today, at approximately 11:15 am, we discovered a handwritten note on the factory floor that directly threatened the safety of our employees, and immediately evacuated the building.  

We strive to be a place of safety for our employees, and while we regret the delay in processing orders that this has caused, we value our employees’ lives above all else. We have had the building and our equipment thoroughly inspected to ensure that there was no ongoing threat to anyone in the building. 

Due to this incident, all orders placed between June 1 and June 3 will be delayed by an extra two days. We appreciate your patience with these orders as we work to get back on schedule. 

For additional information, questions, or concerns, please contact our office at (888) 555-5555. 

How quickly should you respond publicly to a crisis? 

Although it depends on the situation, for very large companies with active social media followings, your organization can have as little as 15 minutes to respond publicly to a crisis. Your ultimate goal is to remain visible and monitor both social and traditional media closely. 

Depending on the severity and impact, you may need to issue something of a placeholder statement. This will help reassure your following that you are aware of the issue and are investigating further in order to provide the most accurate information. Be sure to include the caveat that these early impressions may not be entirely accurate, but that you’re working to better understand the situation at hand. 

Remember that the last thing you want to do is disappear on your followers and customers. 

Who needs a plan? 

Anyone who owns or runs an organization, either individually as part of a board or committee. Make sure your crisis plan is well known throughout the management levels of your organization, if applicable, and across all board members. 

Crises are difficult to handle as an organization, but if you have a plan in place early, it becomes easier to deal with right out of the gate rather than scrambling to come up with solutions in a moment of panic. Responding appropriately-- or inappropriately-- can impact your organization’s reputation for a long time to come. 

Taryn Hefner