No organisation wants to experience a crisis, but a smart business knows they happen and makes plans to cope.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that crises affect enterprises in these core areas: their operational capacity takes a hit, they become liable for damages, or their reputation is damaged in some way. Whether it’s a flood at a manufacturing plant stopping production, a fire on an oil platform causing serious injuries, or adverse press headlines that worry shareholders, a business needs to be able to react quickly.
Smooth, efficient and fast communication is critical to guide the business through the crisis, but this doesn’t always happen. So I’ve identified the four key ‘hot spots’ where communication can make or break a business’ response:
Comms are critical to crisis planning
I’ve spoken to so many companies that have efficient crisis plans in place, but don’t have modern communications to help them put their plans into action. This is the first ‘hot spot’ where I see communications practices slowing down crisis responses.
Companies are still using the old-school ‘red book’ system, where all the info on what to do and who to contact is in a paper binder. In the event of a crisis, team members in the crisis room are sitting down in front of a PC and a phone, having to look up and dial the number of the person they need to contact. If they don’t get through, they’ve got to look up another number and redial. It’s labour-intensive and it’s slow, wasting vital minutes.
A modern comms system can streamline all this into a swift, efficient process. Imagine every crisis team member being able to log on to an intuitive communications system, customised to their role in managing the crisis. All the people they’ll need to contact are immediately visible and have pre-programmed speed dials, and the system is linked with the company directories and other business systems, so it knows whether to try home numbers or business mobiles first and keeps trying until it’s exhausted all possibilities.
Your emergency response needs instant information-sharing
When a crisis first emerges, the first responders are those already on the ground, most likely the operations team. They gather critical information on what’s happened that needs to be passed on to the crisis management team – and this handover point is my second ‘hot spot’.
Without a modern comms system, it can be a challenge to get the info across quickly. You can waste time trying to patch calls together or you lose valuable minutes working out who to send key update information to. The data comes in piecemeal to the crisis management team, and it takes them time to put the full picture together. It slows the emergency response down.
To speed up and streamline comms at this crucial handover, you need to be able to link the crisis management team with everything the team on the ground has found out at the touch of a button. Sharing situational reports, live video feeds or weather feeds instantaneously through easy-to-use conferencing facilities is key.
It’s important to remember that your crisis management team could be anywhere when the crisis hits, working their day jobs in different offices or working from home. If you’re using a modern communications system, they’ll be able to log in from any laptop to be presented with all the tailored info they need, with easy conferencing functionality so they can share in every update.
Crisis managers need to hit the ground running
My third ‘hot spot’ comes when the crisis management team takes total control and swings into action. Their effectiveness can really suffer without the right communication support.
It’s crucial that the team has access to precisely the data they need to react swiftly and productively. Too much information, and crisis managers waste time sifting through it to find what they need. Not enough info, and vital seconds are wasted searching for what’s needed.
The latest communication systems can be set up to reflect the business’ unique needs. All the contact information that goes into the ‘red book’ can be incorporated into a communications system that presents every team member with screens that show the specific contacts they need to work with. So the crisis manager handling police liaison, for example, would see the specific speed dials and other resources they need to fulfil that role.
Comms underpin continuity and recovery
My final ‘hot spot’ for potential communication weakness is in the aftermath of the crisis, as the business moves back to normal operations and the crisis management team stands down. The handover needs to be comprehensive and smooth, so the business’ recovery is as fast as possible.
This is really the contact and briefing process I talked about in the emergency response section, but in reverse. Situational awareness reports and the latest position need to be handed over to the ‘normal’ operational teams that are going to carry out any fixes necessary to get things back on track. You need effective, easy-to-use communications to get your recovery going.
There’ll be a significant amount of clean-up work to do post-event, including analysis of everything that happened and comprehensive debriefing. Recordings are an essential part of this, so you can play back calls to address liability issues and to extract learnings to shape your crisis response in the future.
Find the right crisis management communications for your business
At BT, we have a strong track record of delivering communications systems that help businesses manage crises efficiently. To find out more about how we can provide the functionality you need to support your crisis management processes, get in touch with your account manager.