Crisis Management Musts – Have a Backup Plan

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    Never rely on your first option working out perfectly

    So, you’ve put together a killer crisis management plan, heck you’ve even actually practiced it! Good to go, right?

    Not so fast. As a wise man once said, sh*t happens, and you’d better believe it can, and will, happen when you’re already fighting to keep your head above water. What can you do, then, to help prevent things from falling into chaos should your original plan fail? Integrated Media Strategies’ Norman Smit summed it up using a fantastic analogy:

    Always have a  Plan B

    Skydivers plan a recovery strategy if things go wrong during a jump. Many will have an altimeter on their wrist and an audible altimeter in their helmet that signals when it’s time to deploy a canopy. They have a reserve canopy in case the main malfunctions. Many have an automatic opening device that will deploy their reserve in the event of unconsciousness. By comparison, how prepared is your organization? Have you run through a range of scenarios that are critical to your organization and planned for what to do if something goes wrong? While working in broadcasting as a news Executive Producer, I always had an extra story in the line-up in the event a satellite feed to a live event went down, or, back in the day, the tape machine ate the tape. And it isn’t enough to have a Plan B on paper. Can your number two person use the software to issue the media release under pressure or access Hootsuite to post to social media if the number one person is in hospital with appendicitis? Have they been trained on what to do and can they demonstrate what they were shown eight months or a year later?

    Life is simply too chaotic and unpredictable to put all your eggs in one basket so make a crisis management plan example to avoid this. For example, if at all possible, every person in the crisis team should have an understudy who should be able to, if not flawlessly execute, at least cover the main responsibilities of their role. In a pinch, perhaps when you have limited resources, it’s okay to cross-train multiple people for multiple roles but keep in mind that even the best-intentioned of employees have a limit to how much they can handle at one time.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also the editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]