crisis - covid19

What’s Your Company’s Crisis Management Trigger Point?

At what stage do you pull the trigger and shift your operations into crisis management mode?

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I watch governments and corporations fumble communications to their staff, the public, and customers.

There are a few things that need to happen before you make a public statement about what is happening with your business. Not having these elements in place and clear in your mind will make it absolutely impossible for those listening or reading to believe that you and your people have the situation under control and they will be able to continue to receive service.

So what is the moment when you shift from let’s hope for the best to deploying your plan for managing the crisis?

Do Not Wait Until A Crisis to Figure Out What Your Plan Needs to Be.

Accuracy Beats Speed

The use of WhatsApp, other messaging apps and screenshots makes it just about impossible to keep issues under wraps for long. I’ve seen leaders rush to say something and stumble over words, ramble on about non-essentials and leave listeners more confused than before. You don’t need to rush to be the first to say something but you do need to ensure that when you speak, it is accurate, clear and gives your audience the information they need to make decisions.

The window of time on when you need to speak up before people lose faith in you is small. This is why having a prepared strategy for moving from normal operations to crisis management mode will help you to make this as seamless as possible given the circumstances.

The Trigger Point

I will use the current pandemic as a case study for discussing trigger points.

Almost a year into the crisis most companies have seen the impact of the pandemic on all areas of their business. Don’t wait for your national leader to call for a lockdown before you decide what to do next. Create your own internal systems.

Establish what series of events must happen for the trigger to be pulled on your crisis management plan.

Trigger Point – You will activate your plan when the number of active cases increase to double digits in the space of five days or less.

Create a Sequence of Actions

You are watching with bated breath, the announcements of new cases.

If you would be considered an essential service that must continue to operate, how will that affect your staff and operating hours?

  1. Confirm with the authorities that your business is considered an essential service and would be required to operate during a lockdown. If special IDs or permits are needed, ensure that you know how they will be issued.
  2. Alert staff to possibility of shutdown and the need to work remotely or on shifts. Ask them to identify any impediments to them continuing to work as needed. Identify which staff will need to be issued IDs or permits to be allowed to travel to and from work during the lockdown.
  3. Assess financials and what expenses may need to be handled immediately to manage the crisis. This could include having to order in meals so staff are not exposing themselves unnecessarily to the virus.
  4. What is your social distancing or COVID-19 hygiene protocol and do you have the elements to implement it?
  5. Check stock levels.
  6. Contact suppliers that there may be a need to alter your current arrangement based on the situation.
  7. Draft a press release to go out to local media announcing changes in operating hours, special procedures that customers must know ahead of contacting you or coming to your business.
  8. Ensure you have current contact information for the relevant media houses.
  9. Draft announcements for your social media. If you can use diagrams or photos to give examples, prepare them.
  10. Draft a press release to announce a resumption of normal operations.

If you are NOT an essential service and must close your physical business, how will that affect your staff and the clients you serve?

  1. Alert staff to possibility of shutdown and the need to work remotely. Ask them to identify any impediments to them continuing to work as needed.
  2. Assess financials and what expenses may need to be handled immediately to manage the crisis.
  3. How will people access your services? How will they pay without access to a credit card or another online solution?
  4. Do you need to increase your broadband capacity, mobile data plan, or web hosting to manage a shift to online operations?
  5. Contact your suppliers and tell them there may be a need to alter your current arrangement based on the situation.
  6. Draft a press release which will go out to local media to announce changes in operations and how you will be delivering service.
  7. Ensure you have current contact information for the relevant media houses.
  8. Draft announcements for your social media. If you can use diagrams or photos to give examples, prepare them.
  9. Draft a press release to announce a resumption of normal operations.

Trigger Pulled – The cases are in double digits and the government has called for a lockdown. You know what to do.

Crisis Management Mode
  1. Send an updated email to staff alerting them that you are shifting into crisis mode. Ensure staff confirm receipt of the communication and can function as you need them to. Address any concerns that have arisen as it relates to their safety and ability to work either at the office or remotely.
  2. Confirm to your suppliers what your needs are.
  3. Tweak the press release with relevant dates and distribute. Make yourself accessible for phone calls from the media to clarify or to be interviewed for the news or other public information opportunities
  4. Update your website and social media with the information.
  5. Regularly check your website and social media to answer questions and concerns from customers.
  6. Deliver what you promised to your customers. Adjust based on the challenges. If there is a need to manage expectations due to time delays of loss of supplies, inform, inform, inform.
  7. Be generous in your appreciation to staff, suppliers, and customers for working with you during the crisis via email communications, phone calls, and face-to-face where possible.
  8. Issue a press statement and social media announcements of resumption of regular operations.

Once the crisis is over, be sure to assess what worked and what areas need to be further adjusted to be more efficient. Communicate with your government leaders, your Chamber of Commerce, or business group, any concerns that you wish for them to address earlier, which could allow you to deliver your services more effectively.

Having a clearly outlined strategy for dealing with a crisis, which is not of your making, will help you and your team to continue to serve your customers. When everyone’s world is shifting, having clarity that the service they depend on will continue to be available even if in a new way, brings assurance and also shows your company in the best light.

Do not leave it to chance, that you will have time to figure it out IF it happens. Be prepared.


Nerissa is a certified Business Continuity Manager as well as an expert in crisis communications and media. Subscribe to the Caribbeanpreneur newsletter for business growth and media strategies.