Danger and Opportunity
John F. Kennedy once said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.” This quote is beyond true. When it comes to crisis management plan, you can get two steps ahead finding the opportunity by being aware of the danger.
What is a Crisis Management Plan?
Crisis management allows you to prevent a crisis before it happens or gets out of hand. While this is definitely a perk, not every crisis is able to be anticipated. A crisis management plan helps create a system just for knowing who needs to handle what and where resources need to go as quickly as possible if a crisis does occur. A team can also get one step ahead to identify potential threats and figure out everything that will need to be done prior to those threats. These threats can also be sought out and organized with a SWOT analysis. An Oxford Executive Research Centre study from the early 2000s showed that companies who have had a crisis management plan reduced the capital impact by 60% compared to companies who did not (11%). Once a plan is in place, ensure it is communicated with all departments of the company to make sure it is executed properly.
Key Elements of a Crisis Management Plan
Forbes broke down the elements for a crisis management plan into three key elements:
1. Anticipation of Potential Crises and Planning Ahead
It is crucial to evaluate every possible scenario that could happen and create a plan for each scenario. Take the pandemic currently, this was unforeseen and unexpected, but there are plenty and it takes thought to try to think of everything to get a step ahead. Any key stakeholders should be identified and a list of questions that can come up should be organized. However, choosing your spokesperson is the main part of this key element. This chosen person should be transparent and be accountable for any crises that may come up.
2. A Clear Communication Process
A clear communication process helps to ensure messaging is clear and consistent. This helps to establish the tone that will be used. The tone of this communication process should be authentic and transparent in line with your brand. Messages should be previously approved along with the order of approaching internal and external communications. If you are not authentic and transparent, your audience will know. Everything is available on the internet and this could cause a whole new crisis if this is not planned ahead of time. Tone is crucial.
3. A Sense of Urgency
In time of a crisis, the message has to be delivered as quickly as possible. You need to address the situation head-on and even sometimes reactively. To me, this ties hand in hand in knowing your chain of command. When having to respond in such a short amount of time, who does the crisis need to be escalated to if it is unable to be resolved? Everyone in this chain of command needs to be ready and aware of the crisis communication plan just in case it comes down to them.
Two Brands that Handled Crises
Chipotle is the first brand that comes to mind when thinking about crises. As an avid Chipotle eater, I clearly remember when the E coli outbreak started and continued to occur for around 6 months. 2015–2016 was a rough year for Chipotle. Not only was there a loss in profits of 82%, but stock went down 15%. An executive was arrested for cocaine possession and 10,000 workers sued Chipotle for being underpaid.
When all of the E Coli outbreaks began to happen, the co-CEO (who soon after stepped down) spoke at an investors conference in an unorthodox way blaming the media that they will be writing headlines saying when someone sneezes, they will say its E coli from Chipotle. This has then caused the founder to appear on the Today Show apologizing to consumers and stating how procedures have been put in place and made a bold promise that Chipotle was going to be the safest place to eat. Chipotle could have done a better job at recovering its image and handling this crisis. It seemed as if there wasn’t a plan in place when this crisis occurred. It was clear how unorganized it was. Chipotle is still one of the most popular fast-food restaurants and have been working on recovering its image with time. If I were handling this crisis, I would have apologized and ensured food safety as a number one priority from the start.
I also wanted to touch on the Odwalla Foods’ apple juice E Coli outbreak that happened in 1996. I thought it was interesting to touch on this one since it is the same outbreak that occurred with Chipotle. There was a confirmed link between a local E Coli outbreak and Odwalla’s apple juice. There were more than 20 lawsuits, 60 people sick, and one child dead. Odwalla responded in a totally opposite way than Chipotle did. The CEO of Odwalla immediately recalled all products containing apple or carrot juice and accepted the responsibility single handedly. As the CEO, he even promised to pay all medical costs of anyone affected by the E Coli outbreak. Although this was not specifically his fault, he took the blame completely in efforts of saving his brand. I thought this was the best way this situation could have been handled and it showed that he genuinely cared about his consumers.
Be aware of the danger — but recognize the opportunity.