In PR terms, a crisis is simply something which potentially risks damaging your reputation and which in turn will have a detrimental impact on your ability to thrive.
It might be something of your own making – a faulty batch of products, noisy lorries leaving the factory and causing neighbours to protest, a piece of news badly delivered.
It may be something where you are the victim of malice or the incompetence of others – a competitor spreading a rumour about your products or services, a disgruntled ex-employee taking you to a tribunal and going public on their grievances.
It may be just misfortune – a subcontractor going bust and leaving you to pick up the pieces when you let your customers down as a result. That’s before we even start to think about the risks to all aspects of your business of computer system failure, or the problem of a fire, or mechanical failure at a key plant.
You audit your finances – now audit your risks. Each year businesses audit their finances to ensure they are in good shape.
Do the same with your reputational risks.
When was the last time you sat down as a team to assess what might go wrong and, more importantly, what you would do if anything did? When did you go through a “what if” scenario and frighten yourself with the possible outcomes?
Famously, Alan Partridge asked his team to “surprise me at rehearsals, not when the show is going out live”. The same applies here. Work through the possibilities before they arise. Truth is, you can’t predict or pre-practice every crisis eventuality, but the very exercise of thinking what can go wrong and how well equipped you are to deal with it, will stand you in better stead as or when the inevitable happens.
Better still, get someone from outside the organisation to lead you on that journey. By auditing, you will highlight what risks can be pre-managed. Do it right and you will see where the vulnerabilities in your organisation lie, and you will be in the way to minimising them.