Nobody’s immune to a crisis. It can hit good folks and companies out of nowhere. But hey, having a plan makes all the difference when it does.

💡 Read Crisis Management 101: How to Save Your Business When a Crisis Strikes

The good news is there are proven crisis response strategies and approaches for dealing with crises. Worried about your organization taking a hit? Feel like handling a crisis is as delicate as glass?

If that’s the case, dive into this article. You will learn how to arm yourself with the know-how to steer your organization and your career through the tough times of a crisis.

What Is a Crisis?

Before we dive into effective response strategies, let’s break down what a crisis really is.

Here’s the thing: a crisis is not the end – it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. When we talk about the types of crises an organization may face, we mean corporate crises. These are unexpected events that throw a curveball and threaten the company’s positive image. As noted in the PwC Global Crisis and Resilience Survey 2023, 96% of companies faced a business disruption in the past 2 years. 

Source: PwC’s Global Crisis and Resilience Survey 2023

Typical crisis scenarios

A crisis doesn’t always have to be this colossal event. Even a small organization can be affected. Let’s look at some typical crisis scenarios:

  • An employee is thinking of joining a competitor and leaks the company’s innovations while still in your office.
  • Your top engineer is doing their job, but on social media or in their circles, they might vent dissatisfaction with the job or management.
  • Out of the blue, a key expert is shown the door.
  • Questionable investments are made.
  • Reporting errors, such as downplaying the environmental impact of a manufacturing process.
  • An employee posts something explicit or compromising on social media.
  • An employee decides to drink and drive.
  • An economic crisis hits.

It is crucial to understand the potential crises your organization might face and the harm they can do. Plus, here’s the thing about crises: crafting a response strategy is impossible without keeping an eye on public opinion. Arm yourself with media monitoring software to track sentiment in the media space and safeguard your reputation.

Challenges come with the territory as organizations expand and venture into new territories. In today’s world, crises are hardly shocking. The real deal is how you tackle them. At a crucial point, you’re faced with being proactive or reactive as a crisis unfolds.

Read 7 Corporate Crisis Examples and Ways to Manage Them

Proactive vs. Reactive: What’s the Difference?

Crisis response strategies, difference between proactive and reactive
Crisis response strategies, difference between proactive and reactive

These two approaches boil down to deciding when to handle a crisis: before it hits or after it happens.

In a proactive approach, you get ready ahead of time, preparing answers to questions that haven’t even been asked. PR professionals play a vital role, preparing carefully for potential pitfalls, anticipating likely questions (especially the tricky ones), and, most importantly, having answers ready to avoid being caught off guard.

A reactive strategy, on the other hand, involves defending your company’s reputation after a crisis has occurred. It’s about learning from past events and preparing for similar situations down the road. But remember that being reactive requires quick action and attention, which may take focus away from other important tasks in your organization.

Crisis Management Real-Life Examples

First, let’s look at a proactive crisis response approach.

In 2010, Toyota faced a significant challenge – a widespread recall of cars due to brake issues and unintended acceleration. Not only did it jeopardize the safety of Toyota’s customers, but it also cast a shadow on the company’s reputation.

Recalls by major automakers in Japan and the US

So, how did Toyota tackle this challenge?

To prevent similar incidents in the future, Toyota has implemented strict quality control measures during the production process. Additionally, they provided customers with extended safety guarantees and enhanced their customer service.

Ultimately, Toyota’s reputation was salvaged through a combination of accountability, transparent communication, and a commitment to higher quality control standards in its ongoing production processes.

Here’s how a proactive crisis response approach can be realized.

Let’s check out how another major car company handled the crisis. This time a reactive crisis response strategy was put into action.

In 2015, Volkswagen ran into some serious trouble. They were accused of violating the Clean Air Act. What happened was that millions of their diesel cars had this software that made them seem way cleaner in tests than they were. This whole situation seriously damaged people’s trust in Volkswagen cars. 

So, how did the company respond to the crisis?

First, they claimed that management did not know about the cheating. But then they had to admit that they did know. At the same time, news came out that Volkswagen was laying off a lot of employees. This made people think the company was being unfair by blaming regular workers for decisions made by the higher-ups. 

Could Volkswagen have handled the crisis any better? Probably. However, we cannot rewrite history, but we can learn valuable lessons from others’ experiences and see what both proactive and reactive crisis response strategies can be.

Read 10 Key Crisis Communication Metrics to Assess Your Plan’s Impact

Proactive vs. Reactive: Which One Is Better?

Proactive and reactive approaches offer companies two ways to deal with a crisis. However, they have one thing in common: the words you choose when making statements and how you respond to the challenge as a whole.

Elevate your organization’s productivity and profits by adopting a proactive approach to crisis management. Why does it work? Because you’ll identify potential trouble spots, bottlenecks, or situations that could lead to a crisis ahead of time, putting you in control. It’s much more cost-effective to prevent reputational risks than to rebuild your reputation later on.

If you take a proactive approach, you are less likely to suffer significant reputational and financial damage, thanks to a solid foundation of knowledge and practical experience. On the other hand, the right response to a crisis is crucial whether you’re prepared or not. 

Now, let’s explore five proven crisis response strategies that work whether you’re fully prepared or caught off guard.

5 Effective Crisis Response Strategies

Now that we’ve covered the basics – the two main approaches to crisis management – it’s time to look at what can be done specifically to prevent disruption caused by a crisis. There are several well-established crisis response strategies to explore.

5 effective crisis response strategies

Establish a Crisis Management Team Without a Rigid Hierarchy

Before a crisis hits, put together a proactive crisis management team, bringing in specialists from various departments with skills and experience tailored to the tasks at hand. A key tip: Don’t strictly adhere to a hierarchy when selecting members for the Crisis Management team. Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’ offers examples of how hierarchy in a team can hurt results.

Mistakes can occur when leaders dismiss the advice of their assistants due to differences in rank and position. Conversely, assistants may be reluctant to challenge their bosses, leading to costly mistakes.

Create and Roll Out an Employee Training Program

Navigating a crisis is no walk in the park. To minimize these risks, cultivate a safety-first culture within your team. Achieve this through targeted training that equips your employees with the skills they need to manage crises effectively. Create industry-specific training plans covering real-life scenarios to define employee roles and responsibilities in case of emergencies clearly. Additionally, consider implementing your own Learning Management System (LMS) – yes, you can build your own LMS – customized for training and crisis simulation.

However, training is just the starting point. Regularly assess its effectiveness, gauge your team’s competency, and make the necessary corrections. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the team is well prepared to respond quickly and competently in unforeseen situations and, therefore, successfully respond to crisis scenarios.

Make It Easy to Communicate Within the Team

Keep the team in sync by making sure everyone is talking and listening. It’s very important that these conversations are in line with the company’s overall plan and that they bridge any gaps between the bosses and the team.

Why stress about smooth team communication? Because having everyone’s contact details on speed dial is a game-changer. If there’s a crisis, you can quickly reach the right person and get the ball rolling on fixing things.

Alright, let’s check out some not-so-obvious tips for creating a solid teamwork vibe:

  • First off, steer clear of multitasking. Making your team juggle too many tasks at once can seriously hamper their productivity.
  • Keep those gadgets silent during meetings. It takes a good 24 minutes to fully get into a task, and interruptions from smartphones, even if it’s just a quick search, mess with that groove. Stay focused for top-notch productivity, especially when it comes to discussing data-driven reports.
  • Next, don’t mix up subjects. If you’re dealing with emotional stuff first, don’t suddenly switch to funding or reputational risk assessment. It messes with the flow and might lead to wishy-washy solutions when the situation needs some serious action.

And when it comes to handling a crisis like a pro, tap into a full set of Determ solutions. Using these tools ensures your reputation stays on point, both now and down the road.

Read How to Ensure Your Team is Prepared for Social Media Damage Control

Ask Questions

Navigating the current crisis effectively is the key to handling future ones like a pro. One viable method is to ask your team and management some tough yet eye-opening questions. Asking these questions will help bring to light what may have been hidden.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are we in a crisis?
  • Is the situation at risk of escalating and attracting unwanted external attention?
  • How will this situation affect the organization’s operations and financial stability?
  • Will the situation undermine public, investor, and customer confidence?
  • What information about the crisis should the organization be sharing with stakeholders and the public?
  • Do we have a comprehensive crisis response strategy in place?
  • Who within the organization is designated to manage the crisis?
  • What additional stakeholders need to be involved to ensure an effective crisis response?
  • How should the CEO handle this out-of-nowhere crisis?
  • What world happenings may impact our operations?
  • What proactive steps should be taken to prevent future crises or better handle them?

Asking questions is not just about getting answers; it is about identifying weaknesses and gaps and providing valuable insights into areas that need strengthening.

Listen to What Others Say

Stay on top of events and monitor mentions of your brand. You can use the Determ mobile app to manage your online presence on the go so you don’t miss any important company mentions.

Be quick to respond to comments, especially the not-so-great ones, but remember, sometimes less is more. Knowing when to hold back and keep emotions in check is an art that comes with being aware of the situation. For the best results, keep an eye on all your online channels at the same time.

Here’s what else you can do to handle a crisis effectively:

  • Acknowledge the Possibility: Understand that crises can happen.
  • Learn from Others: Study how other organizations have dealt with crises and plan your own actions in case something similar occurs.
  • Prepare for the Worst: Anticipate the worst-case scenario.
  • Embed Crisis Management: Integrate crisis management into your organization’s routine, treating prevention seriously.
  • Media Communication Training: Equip yourself to communicate with the media in various situations, especially uncomfortable ones.
  • Tap into Expertise: Bring in external crisis management experts and psychologists to keep your management and crisis team up to date.

To Sum Up

Crises are bound to happen – it’s just the way things go. But what really matters is how you deal with them and how frequently they occur. Now that you know there are different approaches and crisis response strategies out there, you’ve got a choice: take a proactive stance or bravely face the challenges head-on.

To stay on top of all the talk surrounding your brand and keep in constant touch with your team, follow our advice and explore the AI-powered media monitoring solutions offered by Determ. Don’t sit back waiting for the storm to pass – take the helm and navigate your ship through it with confidence.

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