Oftentimes, it falls on the communicator of the organization to be the catch-all crisis solution when it all goes wrong.

Crisis should never be a single person reactive response and getting the right people with the right skills involved is a must. This isn't just about assigning roles the minute something breaks, but about standing up an established well-oiled machine that copes well with uncertainty.

We've had to set up crisis response teams at the last minute and it was the perfect learning opportunity. Here are some things to consider;

Get management buy-in

For some, this may feel like you're going to fall at the first hurdle but if you are clear in your intentions in creating a crisis response team and you present and argument that has the solution already, then you can hopefully get the support you need from your management team to get things ready. While some agencies already have dedicated emergency management teams, smaller places may well just rely on you to take care of things.

Your argument should consist of a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities, threats) when it comes to your current crisis response capabilities. Under this, you need to outline what you can do to mitigate against the risks you have outlines by using existing talent and resources. If you can do this while keeping resource requirements to a minimum, and for a trial period, you are more likely to get your proposal across the line.

Try to find internal advocates who can support you in your mission to get a supportive framework together, then demonstrate the benefits in a thoughtfully laid out proposal that is data driven and solution oriented.

Look for skills, not job titles

It is tempting to look around the workplace and dismiss someone simply because of the job they do on a daily basis. So many people have skills that are hidden, or they really want to move to a different team but don't know how to make the move.

If you're looking to get together your crisis response team, send out an email to everyone, with clear management buy-in looking for volunteers. You'll be surprised at what comes back and you'll find you have some real diamonds in the rough who are ready to support you when things get tough.

When you see what's available to you, you can start planning who will do what and when. It's important to ensure you get practical points included in your plan such as where the person is located, if they are available on an on-call basis or if there are technological barriers to them supporting you.

Create a simple, actionable plan

It's vital that when you start writing your crisis response plan that everyone is clear on their roles and the expectations of them being involved. Having volunteers is great, but there still needs to be a clear understanding on what they need to do, how they should perform and equally, what they can expect from you.

The plan should be written for an audience that may not be used to a crisis or what happens when responding from a communication perspective, so don't be afraid to be clear in how it is written and ensure there is always a glossary.

Empower and engage

If you want to utilize the skills and experience of those around you and budget is a consideration, there needs to be more than just pay to motivate people to get involved. It's more common than people realize that gaining new skills and experiences is more valuable than a few extra dollars on the pay check.

Try to give people useful and constructive feedback and ensure they feel valued for what they have done. If the opportunity is there for them to work in another department on a part-time basis or join you at a training conference, then they should be afforded that opportunity. It's important that management see what everyone is doing to work as part of a team to help support the organization.

Practice, practice, practice

In an ideal world, what you have predicted could happen to your agency may never happen. However, you should always act as if it will. If it doesn't, that's great. You don't really want to be proved right but if it does, you and your team will be ready.

Ensure you have regular meetings to talk through what would happen, engage in table top exercises, provide people with resources and tools to learn for their role that will help give them confidence. You

could try to pull the team together to follow a live incident that might be happening elsewhere to give them a sense of what might happen.

Reflect, adapt and adjust

Once you've got a team together and you've been learning and practicing, don't be afraid to switch things up. It's important to see what works and what doesn't - and you don't need a big crisis to show up where things need adjusting. Don't be afraid to adapt to not only external circumstances but internal too.

There will always be challenges but having the foresight to understand these potential challenges will stand you in good stead when the next big thing happens. Creative thinking and seeking out those who want to help will always win over simply asking for a bigger budget.

January 18, 2022

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