The best way to control a crisis is to plan for one

Not all crises are avoidable – but you can plan for the unexpected, says David Clarke, MD of Clarke Associates. Here he identifies five things you should do before the worst happens.

So who next is likely to suffer a cyber-attack? Or an IT failure? Or an unfortunate gaffe on social media?

Who next is going to be in the news when they don’t want to be?

Recent incidents such as the world-wide cyber attack on business and institutions and British Airway’s worldwide IT failure, provide a salutary warning that no organisation is immune. And it is not just larger corporations that need to be prepared. The impact on a smaller business employing just a few people can be every bit as devastating even if it does not command the front pages.

Those organisations that plan for a crisis are more likely to weather the storm. But advance thinking is essential. The key is having a plan in place to deal with any crisis and knowing who is responsible for what, and how you deal with it if a crisis should develop.

The speed with which any organisation responds to an incident is crucial – as is using the right language, channels of communication (that might be badly impacted through IT failure or shutdown) and general demeanour.

Developing a crisis communications plan in advance should prevent a huge dent to reputation. As Warren Buffet observed, “It takes 20 years to build up reputation and five minutes to ruin it”.

Interestingly, without wishing to scaremonger, it is often the first five minutes of a crisis when things can go badly and irretrievably wrong. Not having a plan, as some have observed, is planning to fail.

So what are the top three things any organisation should do in advance?

  1. Identify what can wrong and the most likely scenarios. What and where are the biggest risks? How can you counter against them?
  1. Develop a crisis procedures manual complete with core factual information about the organisation. Make sure it is reviewed regularly and kept up-to-date.
  1. Agree roles and responsibilities – and channels of communications. Who says what and which channels are most appropriate? And who do you communicate with?

There are also several techniques that can be used to control and respond to a crisis – but these vary from one organisation to another.

A crisis can hit at any time. The trick is being prepared – just in case.

  • Clarke Associates delivers specialist planning for a crisis services including the development of crisis and issues management plans and procedures, and also 24/7 cover. A specialist education service is also provided recognising the distinctive nature of schools, academies and colleges.



General: David Clarke

Education: Kathryn Baldock:

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