What do we do when a crisis strikes? Usually, we build plans with to-do lists for what should be done next. And that’s a good thing because there are many things you should do during a crisis.
But there are as many things that you just should not do during a crisis. We often focus on what steps to take when faced with a crisis, but it’s just as important to know what NOT to do. After all, one misstep can take a bad situation and make it even worse.
That’s why I asked the experts in the field for their advice. And compiled their responses into a list of not-to-do crisis management tips. Keep this “not-to-do” list in your back pocket, and you’ll know what to avoid like the plague.
The list is in the order I got the responses in.
I would urge businesses not to ignore problems or to hope that they may resolve themselves without any action.
The starting point is always to recognise that there is a crisis happening, or a potential crisis on the horizon, and to respond.
Publicly acknowledging you are aware and taking action will show a business is being proactive.
Don’t Bury Your Head In The Sand
The worst thing an organisation can do when crisis strikes is to bury its head in the sand and hope the situation goes away.
In order to manage a crisis you have to confront it, however painful and scary it may be.
Stick To The Plan
I have witnessed senior leaders throw out the crisis management plan and begin making decisions on the fly without using the approved crisis plan to navigate their actions.
This approach leads to decisions made quickly without any review or second sober thoughts on the “what ifs.”
Follow the plan as a guide. Use the decision trees and processes your team has practiced and are in your plan to help get to decision points quickly.
Keep your team focused and feel confident in their leadership’s ability to manage the crisis. Don’t just try “winging it” – you will crash and burn if you do.
Do Not Assign Blame
The one thing on a crisis NOT-TO-DO list for businesses in a crisis is to assign blame. Assigning blame in the midst of a crisis does the following things:
- destroys morale
- heightens panic
- discourages openness
All these work against the goals of immediate response during as crisis.
- restore confidence
- clarity of communications
- root cause investigation and mitigation
Also, not assigning blame doesn’t mean not digging to finding the cause. Separate the cause and the blame, for now, and focus on fixing the issue. The blame should be parked aside and dealt with in due time.
Panic. The last thing anyone involved in managing or resolving a crisis should do is panic, although it is a very natural reaction. A clear, considered and calm approach is essential to build confidence with those involved and impacted.
Providing reassurance, displaying leadership and clear direction are key and those involved need to have that space and ability to think and react. The best way to avoid panic setting in is to know what to do, how and with whom – and that is best achieved through well-drafted plans, and to rehearse them regularly.
Respond, don’t react in a crisis
Respond, don’t react in a crisis is one piece of advice I give organizations and leaders. In the face of a crisis, it’s essential for organizations to communicate effectively to minimize the impact and maintain trust with stakeholders.
There is a big difference between reacting and responding. Reaction is usually impulsive, driven-by emotions, while response is something that is thought through.
Reacting impulsively can lead to the spreading of misinformation and cause even more damage to an already difficult situation. Responding with a well-thought-out plan, on the other hand, shows stakeholders that the organization is in control and has a plan to handle the situation, which helps maintain credibility and trust.
Additionally, reacting impulsively can escalate the crisis and make it worse, while responding in a calm and controlled manner can help de-escalate the situation.
Use all channels of communication
Many crisis communication plans focus primarily on the media and social media. It’s good to have holding messages and draft response messages ready for questions from the media on a range of risks and threats.
But don’t forget to use all the channels of communication available to you to ensure all key stakeholders are engaged with. This includes one of your most important stakeholder groups – your internal staff.
Make sure your frontline/customer-facing staff have key messages and know when to elevate customer concerns. Be sure to make any required legal or regulatory notifications, if applicable.
Keep your customers and suppliers updated as well via emails or directly (conference calls, video calls, in-person meetings) in addition to what you put on your website and out via social media. When developing messages and information products, think about what the concerns are for each stakeholder group.
Instead of a conclusion – I want to know what YOU think!
Instead of adding a conclusion, I’d love to get YOUR insight. Please, leave a comment below with a short answer to the following question:
If you could put only one thing on a NOT-TO-DO list for businesses in a crisis, what would that be?
Share your crisis management tips for the NOT-TO-DO list, and I’ll add the best answers to the article!