Becoming crisis ready is a process. It’s not something that just happens overnight. Fortunately, there’s a method to this process that can take any organization, of any size, type, and industry, from their current level of crisis readiness, straight through to building an invincible brand—which, as you know, is the ultimate benefit of being crisis ready.
This process is based off of the Crisis Ready Model, which is a model I’ve developed throughout my years of helping organizations—from international corporations, to government agencies around the world, to businesses just like yours—become crisis ready.
If you’re interested in discovering where your organization currently sits on the spectrum of crisis readiness, and taking the next strategic steps towards your brand’s invincibility, following is a breakdown of the model and its five phases of becoming crisis ready.
Psst! This Crisis Ready Model is the foundation of my new book, Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in This Uncertain World, which provides you the exact roadmap to building brand invincibility. Order Crisis Ready for you and your team at the link above.
The Crisis Ready Model
Like the steps of a pyramid, the Crisis Ready Model has five distinct phases that build on each other, furthering the mindset, skills, and tools required to implement a crisis ready culture and thus build an invincible brand.
Note: Bring this program to your next company meeting. Connect here with Michelle Joyce, my Director of Events.
Phase 1: Audit your organization’s current mindset and culture
The audit phase is about analyzing where your organization currently sits on the crisis ready spectrum, with the aim of being able to use that analysis as a baseline to determine the next steps towards becoming crisis ready. Every organization starts at a different point in their crisis readiness, and understanding where your organization sits is the foundation of knowing where to go.
When you conduct this audit, you want to examine everything, including:
- The organization’s current mindset in viewing and responding to negative events. For example, are they taken seriously enough in proportion to their potential harm? Are your teams proactive in mitigating potentially negative situations before they occur? Are your teams regularly rewarded for putting people above process and bottom line? etc.
- The organization’s current processes and level of preparedness. For example, if you have a crisis management plan in place, where does that plan sit on the crisis ready spectrum? Has your organization identified its most likely high-risk, high-impact issue and crisis scenarios? Do you conduct regular crisis management exercises? Have you put time and effort into preventing the preventable risks that pertain to your organization? etc.
The audit phase will help you craft a blueprint of where the organization currently is in terms of its crisis readiness and where it needs to go in order to build brand invincibility.
Phase 2: Understand the different variables and impacts
With the virality of social media, the twenty-four hour news cycle, and the interconnectedness of the modern world, everything moves at a faster and more hard-hitting pace than it used to. This becomes even more prevalent when you’re faced with a negative event. And, as we saw recently with Crock-Pot’s blindsiding incident, unwanted impactful attention can strike from anywhere—even a fictional TV show! This reality, along with the potential effects these incidents threaten to leave on a brand, needs to be understood by every person within the organization.
The blueprint you created from your audit gives you a clear snapshot of the level of education required. The goal is to build a consistent baseline of understanding for everyone who will be involved in developing and implementing the crisis ready program.
Having a comprehensive understanding and awareness of how news transcends borders in milliseconds, how a video can become viral and have a million views before you’ve even heard about it, or how a poorly worded tweet can prompt impactful backlash, will serve in helping you gain the necessary support and buy-in required for implementing the next phases of the model. It will also serve when it comes time to actually manage real-time issues and crises.
Phase 3: Identify your high-risk scenarios and stakeholder expectations
This is the phase where you begin to accumulate the data that you will need to build out your crisis ready program. Here, you will gather information by having conversations with your team, from the top leadership to your department heads, stakeholder owners, etc., in order to:
- Define what a crisis versus an issue is for your organization
- Identify the most high-impact and most likely types of issues and crises that pertain to your brand
- Understand the expectations and demands of your stakeholders in each of those situations
- Determine your current processes of internal escalation
- Understand how departments interact with each other and how information is currently shared
- Identify the organization’s current gaps, vulnerabilities, and strengths in its different processes, policies, and procedures
The more in-depth your investigation into your organization’s current processes and culture, the more practical your crisis ready program will be. That’s the point of this phase: to gather the data required to create a robust, scalable, and practical crisis ready program.
Phase 4: Design your action plans and communication strategies
Now that you’ve gathered the necessary in-depth knowledge about the organization’s current processes, the next step is to start using that knowledge to design your crisis ready program, which is composed of two elements:
- Your hands-on crisis ready playbooks, which contain all the action plans and resources that will help guide your crisis management team through the first 24-48 hours of a breaking crisis; and
- Your crisis communication handbooks, which hold your scenario-specific crisis communication strategies and pre-drafted messaging.
Having these two elements will mean that you have a crisis ready program that can be leveraged to your advantage at the outbreak of a crisis, which is critical when effective early action means reduced negative impact. These action plans and communication strategies are also in place to help you excel at the two essential requirements for successful crisis management:
- The actions you take to manage the actual incident; and
- Your communication with stakeholders.
You cannot succeed in crisis management without doing these two things and doing them well and simultaneously. Having a program in place that’s scalable across issues and crises allows you to be ready for the worst, but also allows you to excel at handling the minor issues, meaning you will always have a solid strategy no matter what arises.
Phase 5: Implement the crisis ready program and skills into the culture of your organization
You now have knowledge, a program, and a framework that makes you crisis ready—almost. Planning is essential, but in this day and age it is no longer enough to solely rely on a plan. The goal of being crisis ready is to have a culture where your entire team knows how to identify rising risks in real-time, how to quickly assess the potential impact of that risk on your organization, and how to respond in a way that increases stakeholder trust and goodwill in your brand.
The implementing phase is where you begin to implement this culture by conducting simulations that are designed to test the program and strengthen your team’s issue and crisis management skills. As I often say on stage and to my clients, you never hope to experience a crisis, but in a crisis, you hope to have experience. This is the phase that enables your team to gain that experience.
Building an invincible brand requires commitment
While there are five phases of the crisis ready model, just because you’ve reached phase 5 doesn’t mean you’re done. Building, implementing, and maintaining your crisis ready culture requires an everyday, proactive commitment.
The “hard work”—building the foundation of your crisis ready program and moving along the crisis ready spectrum—might be complete, but in order to maintain the results of that hard work, you have to make the choice, consistently, to continue to foster and reward the right mindset and actions within your organization. This means that the five phases are continuous.
At first, you may find it’s a conscious effort to make crisis ready choices, but once you start living and breathing a crisis ready culture, it will become a part of who you are—and will result in building an invincible brand that can successfully overcome any storm in a way that increases stakeholder trust, credibility, and goodwill for your organization.
Note: This article is just a short blueprint. If you’re serious about building an invincible brand, then my new book Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in This Uncertain World includes all the tools, knowledge, and insight you need to becoming crisis ready, regardless of your organization’s current level of crisis readiness. With concepts and strategies accessible to your team members at every level, Crisis Ready has valuable information for your decision makers straight through to your front line alike.
The book to help you build an INVINCIBLE brand.
By Melissa Agnes