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Expect the unexpected: How to respond to crisis, before it strikes


23 September 2021 at 7:00 am
Jo Scard
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. In this article, Jo Scard shares easy steps you can take to ensure your organisation has a bullet proof plan in place, before the unexpected happens.  


Jo Scard | 23 September 2021 at 7:00 am


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Expect the unexpected: How to respond to crisis, before it strikes
23 September 2021 at 7:00 am

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. In this article, Jo Scard shares easy steps you can take to ensure your organisation has a bullet proof plan in place, before the unexpected happens.  

Since the beginning of 2020, organisations have had to respond to a number of significant issues that have played out on a global stage with immediacy and integrity. Such responses have defined the reputation of brands and organisations – some for the better, others for worse. This has highlighted the need to have a solid issues management plan in place, before a crisis strikes, to ensure the reputation and longevity of your organisation.

Firstly, let’s define what we even mean by crisis. An organisational crisis can be defined as a high-impact event or series of events that threaten the viability of the organisation and its reputation. The first and foremost goal of any crisis management is to protect the integrity and reputation of the organisation. 

Below are key components that can help your organisation build a resilient public-facing reputation and map out an issues management plan, both of which are critical steps to take before the unexpected strikes.

Deal with issues before they escalate into crises

Issues management planning can help your organisation prepare for issues so that they don’t escalate into a crisis. By mapping out potential risks, you can move your organisation’s response from reactive to thoughtful and considered. 

To begin, map out likely issues that could arise. This can be a confronting task, but you’ll feel so much better once you have an action plan in place to conquer those what ifs that keep you up at night. Once you have your definitive list of likely issues, map out key messages for each. This step can take some time but once you’ve conquered one issue the others will flow more easily. 

Finally, establish the procedure for how your organisation would respond to each issue, including nominating a key spokesperson to field potential media enquiries.

Stay on top of the issues

One of the most important things you can do during the emergence of a potential crisis is to stay abreast of everything that’s happening, what others are saying and what the media is reporting. Media reports and public perception can impact staff and clients in your organisation. Staying ahead of what’s happening will allow you to identify any potential issues and manage them with communications and dissemination of messages before they turn into a more serious situation. 

You can monitor the media manually by checking in on breaking headlines throughout the day and searching keywords. Ensure you scan a broad range of publications including different news formats (online, radio, print, podcasts, TV), as well as considering publications with different political vertices. There are also many media monitoring services that can assist with this and allow for real-time updates on media reports.

Additionally, stay in contact with key stakeholders who may have intel and knowledge on an unravelling story that affects your organisation.

Build and maintain a resilient, reputable organisation

Ensure your organisation has a good reputation in the space before a crisis hits. Your response to a crisis should be an extension of your already established presence, building credibility through clear values and consistency. A good way to do this is to ensure there is good-will and positive messages seeded through your own channels consistently. 

Position your organisation’s well-managed services and positive community outcomes across your own communications channels such as social media, newsletters and blogs. This needs to be regular and ongoing communication to your following in order to be effective. 

Proactively engage with influential stakeholders to build positive relationships. Once you’ve identified influential stakeholders, maintain consistent communications including sharing any issues or risks you foresee before they arise. This transparency creates a genuine relationship between your organisation and key stakeholders, and can even help you gain critical insights into the possible response of identified issues. 

If you need help with crisis management, strategic communications planning, media outreach, or government engagement – we’re here to help. We have award-winning expertise and experience in helping not for profits and community-based organisations to tell their stories. We really care about what we do, and we do extraordinary things. Get in touch today at fiftyacres.com.au


Jo Scard  |  @ProBonoNews

Jo Scard is the founder and managing director of Fifty Acres.

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