Happy New Year!
2014 was an eventful year, especially when it came to crises of all different sizes and scales. But let’s not be fooled. 2014 is officially behind us, but the risks and threats that leave every organization open to destruction are not. In fact, as we saw with the Sony crisis in December, these risks and threats are only bound to grow – as are today’s crisis management challenges.
So why not lead into 2015 on a crisis-intelligent note? The following are three absolute must-do’s to help you do just that. They certainly aren’t the only things you should be looking at, but finding time and budget to put energy to the following three must-do’s will go a long way in helping your organization be crisis-free this year.
3 absolute must-do’s to help make your 2015 crisis-free
Note: I received the following comment from a reader and, as I’m sure he’s not the only one to have thought this, I wanted to address it. His comment was: “I am surprised that you do not include any monitoring in your 3 steps…”
It was a good observation as I did not list monitoring as a “must do” for 2015, and here’s why: Monitoring needs to be a given and goes without saying. If you aren’t yet monitoring social media and the web as a whole, then you aren’t ready for anything, never mind to implement the following three must-do strategies.
That said, I’m at the point now with this blog where I write for the intermediate to advanced readers / organizations. I aim to push envelopes and inspire further action within my writing. Although there’s tons of existing content within these many blog pages for beginners, I feel as though I’ve done that, my readers do those things, and now I’m on to helping you get even further ahead in your crisis prevention and planning.
Now that we have that all cleared up… here are the 3 absolute must-do’s to help make your 2015 crisis-free:
1- Review your customer service policies and trainings
Do your customer service representatives understand their responsibility when it comes to issue management? Do they (and, for that matter, do you) realize that they’re the ones most likely to spot an issue on the rise and, given the proper training and empowerment, can make all the difference in preventing those issues from further developing and escalating? Are they fully prepared to do this?
If not, here’s how you can make successful issue management an accomplished goal in 2015:
Your next steps
- Review your customer service and issues management policies, and incorporate issue management protocols, procedures and guidelines within them.
- Arm your customer service with proper training and tools to help them facilitate their tasks when the organization’s reputation is at stake.
Note: Providing your team with an Issues Management Response Flow Chart is a good place to start, but not the only tool they should have in their toolbox.
2- Put your IT systems through a vulnerability audit
If there’s one thing that 2014 has taught us, it’s how vulnerable everyone is to cyber threats. You won’t be able to prevent every potential cyber threat, but you can focus on preventing the preventable ones and planning for the unpreventable ones. Being caught completely off guard in a crisis like this is inexcusable and will only contribute to your defeat.
Here’s how to go about preventing the preventable and planning for the unpreventable:
Your next steps
- Sit down with your IT department lead, your in-house council, your communications department and anybody else you feel should be at this table, and discuss areas of vulnerability that leave the organization digitally at risk. (Remember: If you can think it, it can happen.)
- Work to understand the systems you currently have in place and revise your current policies.
- From there, identify where you are currently left vulnerable and discuss the real potential repercussions of these vulnerabilities.
- Once this is done, put some action plans for prevention and preparedness in place and train your team.
3- Plan to test your crisis plan and your team at least once this year
While budgets are still being allocated, open up your calendar and schedule time and resources to put your crisis team through a full-scale crisis simulation.
I’m not talking about a traditional table-top exercise here, those are lame and ineffective. I’m talking about working with a team of professionals who can help you create a realistic crisis scenario and provide you with the tools and expertise to launch your team into it (on a safe and secure platform, of course). The challenge is for your team to use today’s technology, their training and the organization’s crisis plan (even though this manual should be set aside during the simulation) to manage their way out of the crisis by listening, communicating and working together in real-time.
Trust me when I say that this is the best form of crisis prevention, planning and training you can put your team through and the rewards will be outstanding. Not only will you test your plan (because don’t be fooled, all plans look great in theory), but it will provide your team with experience and skills that can only be learned in the field – and in a real crisis is not when you want to find out whether or not their crisis management skills are up to par!
Your next steps
Pick a date and allocate some budget to a crisis simulation. Then, work with a specialized team that will help you make this exercise a great success.
What does success look like in a crisis simulation?
- The development and execution of a realistic crisis scenario that could actually strike your organization.
- The use of a platform where today’s crisis realities are used to test your team effectively (i.e.: social media, the real-time news cycle, two-way communication, etc.)
- Once the exercise is complete, whether the crisis was successfully managed or not, you should be able to identify areas within your plan that need improvement (and the right professional will be able to provide you with strategies and best practices to improve them) and your team should feel challenged, exhausted and empowered.
To a crisis-free 2015!
2015 will only be crisis-free for your organization if you’re a) lucky, or b) intelligently and adequately prepared. Hopefully you’ll be both.
Wishing you a successful and crisis-free year!
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.