Companies make the news regularly for their handling – often mishandling – of a situation that reaches crisis proportions. Familiar names found in negative headlines include Equifax, Wells Fargo, United Airlines and BP – all massive organizations with complex operations.
But what about your organization? Your local nonprofit with a couple dozen employees that operates on a shoestring, serving clients and working with volunteers and donors? Surely, an organization such as that doesn’t need to invest time and resources preparing for a crisis. Those situations only happen to the big players, right?
Nope, that’s not right. Bad things happen to even good people and good organizations. Small nonprofits don’t get a pass on crisis communication planning. Every organization should expect and PREPARE for the unexpected. Here’s why.
- It’s a matter of when, not if, a crisis will strike your organization. Cyber crime, mismanagement, discrimination, workplace violence, lawsuits – the categories of crisis that can strike an organization are many and well-documented. No one is immune.
- The planning process may help you uncover potential risks that you can mitigate now. Understanding your organization’s areas of vulnerability gives you an opportunity to develop strategies to address them and prevent a crisis. A “smoldering crisis” is a business problems first that become a crisis when a key stakeholder group finds out.
- Crisis planning helps with organizational understanding. A crisis communication team often includes people with non-communication roles in the organization. Working together to develop a plan helps the communicators and people in other functional areas understand each other’s roles better.
- You won’t have time to plan in the midst of a situation. Managing a crisis involves lots of moving pieces, incomplete information and limited time to act. Planning and practicing now, when it’s calm, will pay dividends when you need the plan.
- A well-crafted plan will help you respond better. You’ll be able to respond more quickly and accurately, and you’ll be more likely to make the best decisions. Taking time to plan BEFORE a situation erupts is always the right decision.
- A solid plan helps you protect your reputation. Your reputation is your organization’s most valuable asset. It takes years to build a positive reputation and only a few minutes to lose it.
Crisis communication planning requires management commitment and thoughtful consideration. And, it’s a valuable investment for every organization.
This blog was written by Academy for Nonprofit Excellence Instructor, Mindy L. Hughes, APR.