- Posted by Megan Paquin
- On March 18, 2020
- communications, coronavirus, crisis, crisis strategy, risk assessment
There’s no doubt about it: Crisis begets crisis. Often, we hear from business leaders who have been dealing with a crisis for days, weeks or months but then find themselves dealing with new problems as a result. Cybercriminals, for example, are known to capitalize on organizational crises and catastrophic events to infiltrate IT systems. Then, there are crises unrelated to COVID-19 that can further impair your organization.
So what’s a business leader to do? Plan.
It is never too late to develop a business continuity plan. And, while that might seem easier said than done in this unprecedented situation, there are a few simple strategies to maintain a proactive mindset even when it seems there’s only time to react.
- Constantly reframe and evaluate the situation around the primary crisis. Before you rush to make a decision based on the latest news or guidelines, take a moment to fully assess the big picture. Start with creating a risk assessment worksheet. Each day, review and make updates based on the information that is currently available. Time stamp and maintain a record of these updates to learn from and adapt as the primary crisis continues to evolve.
- Develop a monitoring protocol to learn from others. In crisis, organizations tend to insulate themselves and focus on containment. Instead, assign a member of the crisis team to look outward. This individual should constantly review media and other sources for information about industry response and impact. How are your partners and competitors communicating with external audiences? Have their operations been affected? Incorporate information that could have an impact on your own assets or operations within the daily risk assessment.
- Create action plans based on updates to the risk assessment. What trends are you seeing as you update the risk assessment that are making a potential related or unrelated crisis more likely? Assign members of the crisis team to develop a specific action plan to address those issues. Then, conduct a brief, tabletop execution of the action plan to test it. If your organization’s crisis management plan already includes action plans for various crises, skip to the tabletop exercise and revise based on your team’s effectiveness in executing under the current circumstances.
- Listen to your employees and incorporate their concerns into your plan. We can’t state this enough, so here it comes again. Employee relations is the most overlooked but most essential aspect of your business continuity plan. Are your employees expressing frustration about the remote work situation? Have you received questions about the potential for layoffs? Your leadership team might feel confident and understand all of the organization’s contingency plans, but that doesn’t mean your employees do. In the absence of information, we often see speculation and employees – from the front-line to middle- and senior-management – make rash and inappropriate decisions. We can see the fallout of such actions in the cruise line industry where sales managers’ decisions to downplay coronavirus concerns to clients has resulted in a class-action lawsuit from investors who suffered the fallout in the stock market. Research indicates employees have a high-level of trust in private companies to lead in this crisis – so, ensure that you listen to their concerns, evaluate them in your risk assessment and create an action plan to address them as time goes on.
- Don’t isolate your business. Just because we are social distancing, that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. There are many resources available to help businesses develop a business continuity plan, respond to crisis and take corrective actions when needed. Our Crisis Communications Team is available 24/7 and rapidly responding to various issues related and not related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Ready.gov also offers an abundance of resources for businesses, including emergency management best practices to address any potential risk your business could face.
Assuming a proactive posture will ensure your business weathers this challenge. Take time to save time. Pause, reflect and look outward to learn from the situation and adapt your plans for the future. With these simple steps, your business will be poised to withstand this challenge and may even find opportunities to emerge stronger.
The information in this article is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve, it is possible that some data have changed since publication and some recommendations may not be applicable or appropriate to implement for your organization at this time. While we endeavor to keep our insights as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations from their own communities by using the CDC and WHO as resources.
Our Crisis Communications Team is also available 24/7 and rapidly responding to various issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak. If your organization requires immediate assistance, please contact Dave Poston at (678) 358-5876 or Megan Paquin at (407) 432-7066.