Organizations That Want to Survive Significant Operational and Reputational Damage Need to Implement a Complete Crisis Management Program


Your crisis management program creation journey starts here…

We hope you’re reading this article because your organization and its leadership have signed off on the company creating a crisis management program, or there was some other driver that got you to this point.   If that’s the case, and you’re here to find out what a program looks like, so you can present it to your leadership team, then you will benefit from this guide to creating a successful crisis management program. This guide is not all-encompassing, but will give you some clear general guidance on what a typical corporate crisis management program looks like.

The program can only succeed if this first step is embraced

Leadership must allow for a programed approach to crisis management. The CM program might be part of business continuity or resiliency programs. Wherever the program ultimately sits, it must have senior leadership’s buy-in. The program also needs to be framed by an overall documented CM policy that is clear and concise. The policy should give management personnel the autonomy to implement crisis management plans and activate their crisis management teams when necessary.

Link your crisis management guiding principles to these organizational traits

As an organization that is committed to creating and maintaining a crisis management program, it is important that you set out guiding principles that are clearly understood by management. Aspects of the core principles can even be relayed to employees as part of ongoing awareness or training initiatives. Principles should be linked to your core values as an organization. Additionally, and where possible, the principles should also be linked to the organization’s strategic planning initiatives. Although principles are specific to your organization, here’s a few examples of what they may include:

  • Safety and Security First
  • Communications Excellence
  • Accountability
  • Decisive Leadership

The crisis management plan must have these six parts….

Although I wouldn’t advocate for a large detailed plan, and each organization might have some differences, I do suggest that a crisis management plan has the following sections:

  1. Policy Statement
  2. Contact Lists – Validate numbers regularly
  3. The CMT Organizational Structure – Roles and Responsibilities
  4. Notification and Activation Procedures – How do you pull the team together?
  5. Response and Management Activities:
  • A briefing cycle process – how will we be organized during the chaos?
  • Event logging – how will you log events as they start to unfold?
  • Check lists – these might be specific to your organization and even role based
  • Crisis communications – this might be a separate plan, but for the sake of tighter coordination it’s best to make crisis communications a sub-section within the CMP
  1. Recovery Process – How will you create a flow

The plan should be accessible 24/7. Many online technologies are now available

Resource: This crisis management application helps team coordinate their response – GroupDoLists

Training the team requires more than just a set of slides

Without getting into training techniques, it is important to note that any team that is going to be trained on a crisis management process should also practice what they have been taught through simulation exercises. Depending on the size and complexity of your program, as well as some other specifics as they relate to your company, a full-day training on the crisis management process, planning, response and recovery activities should suffice. This should be followed up the next day with a simulation exercise. This training can be supplemented by doing some pre-training webinars to provide background. Additional ongoing awareness, training and exercises should be planned for as part of the overall programmed approach.

So, what do you do now?

It is important to note that this journey will not be easy. Receiving buy-in from the most senior level of the organization is one big hurdle to be overcome, however, you would still need to have good relationships with various key stakeholders, such as the crisis management teams, legal, and Human Resources that will help you implement the program over the coming months, or,  in some cases it might be a year or more. Are you the right person for this task? Do you have those relationships within the organization to help make the program run smoothly?


Rob Burton

Rob Burton

Rob is a Principal at PreparedEx where he manages a team of crisis preparedness professionals and has over 20 years of experience preparing for and responding to crises. Part of his leadership role includes assisting PreparedEx clients in designing, implementing and evaluating crisis, emergency, security and business continuity management programs. During his career Rob has worked for the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, as a crisis management consultant in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he negotiated with the UN and Pashtun tribal warlords and he served with the United Kingdom Special Forces where he operated internationally under hazardous covert and confidential conditions. Rob was also part of a disciplined and prestigious unit The Grenadier Guards where he served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Palaces in London. Rob was a highly trained and experienced infantryman serving in Desert Storm and commanded covert operational teams and was a sniper. Rob has keynoted disaster recovery conferences and participated in live debates on FOX News regarding complex security requirements and terrorism. Rob has a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.