Recognize the situation and coordinate your team. They are the experts of the business and at the moment you need them with “double cap”: the operation and the management of the contingency.
9 min read
This story originally appeared on High Level
A crisis is a “surprise” event that affects the operation of our company and that also has the potential to escalate and harm the viability of our operating and financial results, thus damaging our reputation with our collaborators, clients, allies and suppliers. Does this situation sound familiar to you?
Unfortunately we are in the midst of a crisis, and without pretending to be a yellow or alarmist, let's take into account that this can be further complicated . And instead of worrying or paralyzing, the best thing is to prepare and act.
Here I share 5 key steps that will help you deal with this situation:
1. Convene and organize your crisis management team
Recognize the situation and coordinate your team. They are the business experts and right now you need them with a “double cap”: operation and contingency management.
This team must at least include the leader of the company , a representative person or with a focus on human resources, finance, production and marketing, someone in marketing and communication.
The main functions of this team are:
- Define the risks, plans and action guidelines.
- Be aware of incidents and ensure that communication policies and actions are complied with.
- Hold periodic sessions to analyze the state of the situation and ensure that agreements and guidelines are carried out.
- Keep the key teams of the organization updated.
- Communicate constantly, simply and consistently to employees, customers, suppliers, authorities, etc.
In times of crisis they need support of the valuable human capital that we are moments of truth that prove the strength of our people. Recognizing your talent and putting it into practice during the contingency will promote the participation and commitment of our people , to get through this situation and also to act during the recovery period.
2. Quick and effective communication
Send a clear message to your stakeholders, about how they are facing the situation.
And if you don't have a plan yet, the most honest thing is the most credible and forceful: inform that you are preparing to operate better during the contingency and that you will shortly report progress.
If you communicate this, take into account that you will have to fulfill this promise . In times of crisis , honesty is an invaluable intangible asset.
It is important to note that, at all times and especially in a crisis, the main public and with the most credibility are your collaborators. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Global Repor 2019, they have greater legitimacy than the CEO of the company.
You can start with an internal statement, either written or a message in person or online , where you expose the situation and the next steps you have determined to deal with the contingency . This will help them understand your decisions, prepare and even give them hope. To the extent that they trust you and your strategy, they will help you to replicate that trust to the rest of your audiences.
3. Defin and scenarios and action plan.
As a team, determine the scenarios to face (three scenarios are recommended: low, medium and critical impact).
Make a list of the risks: financial, human resources, operational, commercial, customers, legal, and reputational. And define each of the vulnerabilities of your organization, that is, the inability of the company to resist each risk. Evaluate its impact and scope.
Based on the three scenarios, develop an action plan that allows them to transfer, eliminate, assume the risk, or implement a preventive or mitigation measure for each risk.
Develop creative tactics that help you deal with every risk. An example would be, if your business is an aesthetic and you have to close during the contingency, you can create a special promotion for hair dyes at 50% . Offer your customers to take advantage of the advance payment promotion, and use it when quarantine ends. They will most likely require it by then, because the root will have grown at least an inch.
Also, in each scenario specify the warning signs to act. In the critical scenario, an alert signal could be: total quarantine in the city : And if you already have a plan to mitigate that risk, its implementation is activated the moment the authorities inform you. You and your team will be ready , they will know what to do and they will focus on solving it. Otherwise, uncertainty can paralyze them.
In this part, I suggest that you focus on the consequences with the greatest impact that you will have to face, which markets will be most affected, how your customers, your competitors and the industry are reacting, what efficiencies you can implement in the operation. You could find simplifications and significant savings, or discover that there are customers that require a greater number of services.
For example: if your concern and priority are your collaborators. However, stopping operating for forty days means a significant financial impact to pay salaries and expenses, one approach could be to look for new sources of financing , consult a financial expert friend who suggests other options. In times of contingencies, governments implement measures such as tax incentives, grace periods for the payment of debts, or special credits with low interest rates.
Review the balance of your company, identify where the greatest expenses and income are concentrated, what debts you have and from there objectively analyze where the economic impact will be on your business. D Isena actions to mitigate the impact, such as making payment arrangements with your suppliers and why not talk to your landlord to make partial payments. In times of contingency we can help each other.
Given this scenario, opening this exercise with the team helps you share risk and responsibility, and better yet, allows you to explore new possibilities to improve the business and its services. Here focus on generating solutions and opportunities in the midst of the storm.
4. Communicate effectively and in a timely manner
Develop a communication plan according to your action plan. Integrate your stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, authorities, et c.). Define a simple and consistent message to convey to each of them.
Focus on what's important to your customers. Communicating your new sanitation measures, or how you are reinforcing service or production protocols, helps build trust.
It is very important that you take into account the basic rules of communication in times of crisis:
a) Telling the truth generates confidence in the short and long term.
b) Show empathy, listen to your audiences, they will correspond to you the same. Start with your collaborators, they are your main ambassadors and they replicate your actions.
c) In the midst of crises, the population is more sensitive. Check your promotional campaigns, messages on social networks, or the brochures and ads in your business. Due to the concern of the moment, we could forget the supervision of the communication that we are sending to the client, and the messages could be counterproductive.
d) Action is also communication. It is not only necessary to say that we are acting with responsibility or with sanitary protocols , but that must be perceived.
e) Strengthen the links with your suppliers, with the business association or because not with your competitors, we are all being affected and by organizing common fronts we can manage resources or promote initiatives of positive impact for our sector.
f) Act and communicate quickly. There is no worse communication or message so perfect that it is stored on the hard drive and does not reach its receiver. An effective and timely message can make the difference of how your collaborators, clients or allies perceive you.
5. Signal monitoring
From day one, it is relevant to have news monitoring ( offline and online ) and indicators that allow us to constantly evaluate internal and external signals such as: the economic, political and social environment, our industry, our company, and issues of conjuncture. Create your dashboard for effective decision making.
Select the most credible media, listen to the qualified international and national institutions on the subject. Let us learn from the experiences of other countries that lead us in facing the contingency. And beware of fakenews , avoid overreacting to them. Check the source : ALWAYS . Confirm the data : ALWAYS . Make that part of your procedures and teach your collaborators to do it. They will be grateful to you.
Take into account that crises cannot be avoided, but we can manage them and mitigate their impact. So let's get to work.
* Alma Beltrán is a master in corporate communication management from the University of Barcelona. He has more than 20 years of experience in communication strategy management, public relations marketing, media relations, crisis communication and reputation.