Developing a crisis management plan

If you’re running a business or working as a leader within your company, you know how everyday operations are meant to play out. You’re familiar with best interview and hiring practices, know what it takes to close deals with stakeholders and are even familiar with the best way to ensure employees can sign up for healthcare. But the thing is, regardless of how many policies you have in place, there will come a time when you face something you weren’t prepared for.

What is a crisis management plan?

Crisis management isn’t about anticipating every single thing that can go wrong at your business – that’s impossible. It’s about dealing with crises in a way that allow your company to move forward, even after something’s gone wrong. A crisis management plan lays out the steps you and your management team can follow when disaster strikes. Good crisis management plan examples address everything from workplace violence to weather-related disasters or a cyber hacking incident, and are flexible enough to adapt to a broad range of circumstances. These plans also address how to lead your team through the crisis and how to recover afterwards so your business and employee morale does not suffer.

Here’s how you can develop a crisis management plan that can be adapted to address nearly any situation.

Developing a crisis management plan

Having a crisis management plan template helps you respond to whatever unknown circumstances come your way, and effective corporate communication is vital when it comes to developing a crisis management plan and putting it into action. Your plan needs to be updated quarterly with specific tasks assigned to individuals on your team if an emergency occurs. You also need to ensure each member of your team is trained on exactly what is expected from them in a crisis situation. 

A crisis management plan will address protecting the safety of your employees as well as your equipment, technology, products and other resources. It will also address how the incident will be communicated to your customers or clients and, if applicable, the press and public.

What steps to take: A crisis management plan example

Though a crisis management plan example can be helpful as a template, keep in mind that each plan will depend on the type of business you’re in, how many employees you have and what type of resources you need to protect. Here are some crisis management plan template steps that will give you a good frame of reference for developing and executing your own plan.

Step 1: Assess the emergency and its impact

You can’t properly execute your crisis management plan without knowing exactly what crisis you face. Quickly assess the emergency and determine if it is a threat to physical safety, reputation, resources or data. Keep in mind there may be multiple types of threats occurring at once, so have a plan in place to prioritize. The safety of your team always comes first, followed by securing resources and equipment.

how to create a crisis management plan

Step 2: Take immediate action

company creating crisis management plan

If it’s a physical threat, the next step is to make sure everyone is safe. In an immediate sense, this means executing steps like evacuating the building if a fire has occurred or removing an employee from a situation if there’s been a threat of violence either from or to that employee.

Once everyone is moved to a safe location, you need to think about what your team needs on a mental and emotional level. Will this crisis impact how your team is able to do their jobs? Does the company need to shut down for a few days while people assess the situation? Do you need to bring therapists on-site to help your employees deal with what happened and effectively manage the ensuing stress? Depending on the scale of the emergency, these are all things to consider.

Step 3: Remain a leader

When a crisis occurs, it’s easy to get caught up in the panic of the situation. While you could let someone else take charge, it’s your duty as a leader to remain calm and maintain your position of authority. There are many different types of leaders, but all of them need to be able to shepherd their team through a crisis. Take a breath and stay composed – your team needs you.

Make sure your crisis management plan details what you expect of yourself and other leaders in the organization during an emergency. How will you show you are putting others first instead of only taking care of yourself? How will you communicate with your customers, the press and the public? Don’t assume your leadership team will act accordingly in a crisis; put it in writing.

how to create a crisis communication plan

Step 4: Be there for your team

company developing crisis management plan

The best crisis management plan template ensures that you’re there for the people who are most important to your brand: your employees. Check in with your team to see what they need most from you. It’s vital that you don’t just see your team as employees – these are people who are dedicating the majority of their time to make sure your vision is a success, so treat them accordingly. You can offer your personal support, as a friend and leader, and also work with human resources to compile a list of external support options.

Step 5: Take the next steps

You’ve made sure everyone feels safe, accounted for and heard. The next step in your crisis management plan is to recover as swiftly as possible. As a leader, it’s your duty to find a productive way to move forward. Actions like repairing your office or finding a new building if yours has been destroyed, replacing equipment and restoring lost data are vital to getting back on track as soon as possible.

take the next steps

Step 6: Perform damage control

damage control

Part of developing and retaining customer loyalty is reassuring customers after a crisis. Depending on the nature of the crisis, you may need to send emails or make phone calls to clients explaining what happened and the impact on them. You may also need to issue statements to the press or meet with governing boards for your industry. Remember that a crisis not only affects you and your team – it can also touch all those you do business with.

Step 7: Look ahead

If the crisis was something that could have been prevented, developing a crisis management plan that ensures this same incident never happens again is the final step. Anticipation is power, and though you weren’t able to prevent this particular crisis, you can take steps to strengthen your business so it’s less vulnerable in the future.

looking ahead

Create an infallible crisis management plan

Tony Robbins’ complimentary Seven Forces content series uncovers the tactics necessary to make your business adaptable to any crisis situation.