How To Quickly Identify a Crisis

When a crisis hits, there’s only one goal: return to business as usual as quickly as possible. That often hinges on how quickly you identify a crisis and whether you’re prepared to launch a response.

The first question: determine whether what’s unfolding is just a bump in the road or a true crisis.

A Quick Crisis Test*

Here are four things to consider about each situation:

  1. Is there a good chance it will escalate in intensity?
  2. Could it foster unwanted attention by outsiders, such as reporters or regulatory agencies?
  3. Could it interfere with normal business operations?
  4. Could it make your company look bad or cause customers, investors and others to lose confidence?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you have a crisis. And how you handle yourself moving forward determines how you are ultimately viewed in the court of public opinion. You must actively manage communications to protect your most important asset—your organization’s reputation.

In addition to the crisis test, beware of smoldering crises. Possible indicators include an employee exodus, a buzzing grapevine or low customer satisfaction scores.

Smoldering crises are often self-inflicted. Many companies try to ride things out, thinking if they ignore the problem, it will eventually go away. The reality? Studies show there’s an 80 percent chance in any five-year window there will be a month when a company loses 20 percent of its value. The way you handle that challenge will determine how quickly you regain that value.

You need to have a team of battlefield commanders who meet regularly to gather intel about what trouble could be looming and prepare for “what-ifs.” Your best defense is to prepare by conducting crisis simulations and media training for key staff so when that crisis hits, you’ve got a plan in place.


*From “Crisis Management: Planning for the Inevitable” by Steven Fink.