Making Good Out of the Bad: Top Tips for Effective Crisis Management

CrisisObserving a team during times of crisis is sometimes like watching young children on a football field.  Everyone is so busy running after and tripping over the ball that they forget to keep to their positions.  One of the ways we help our clients overcome the overwhelming urge to deal with a crisis the way children play football is to participate in a crisis simulation workshop with a fictitious scenario to test if they would stay in position and deliver as a team.

No one wants to have to deal with a crisis in their daily work (or outside of work for that matter!) And the explosion of social media has made effective crisis management an even more real need. In the space of several minutes one remark, one photo, one hint of a hint of a juicy news story can reach millions and become a trending topic on the web.  As communications professionals, this is not something that should make us wobble in our shoes (indeed the rise of social media has made our industry all the more exciting and relevant) but it is something we need to ensure our clients are fully prepped to handle effectively.

However, when it comes to pharma companies—whose raison d’être is developing and marketing treatments that impact on lives—crises can pack a real PUNCH. The issues can become serious, emotive and heated. A crisis simulation helps test whether internal teams can handle the pressure of negative news stories, government investigations, stakeholder queries, media interviews and social media saturation.

By delivering these simulations and seeing clients in action, we have developed these top tips:

  1. 1.       Smaller groups work best in a crisis situation.

Too many opinions can make a complex situation more complex and can make decisions more difficult to reach. Agree on a core crisis team and ensure that each person is aware of his or her specific role.

  1. 2.       It is vital to appoint a leader early on and refer to the company crisis toolkit and literature.

With so many voices struggling to be heard, it is important to have one authoritative decision maker and leader. The leader should in turn remember to refer to company crisis procedures which are available to support them.

  1. 3.       Intra-disciplinary dialogue is vital, especially when working across different companies and groups.

One thing that is often forgotten during high-pressure environments is internal communication. However, being aligned and supporting each other is the key to effective crisis management.

  1. 4.       Make decisions—fast!

There is no time to lose during a crisis. Slow responses or lack of comment will be perceived negatively by stakeholders and the public.

  1. 5.       Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Ensure a clear crisis procedure is in place and that all parties are familiar with it.

  1. 6.       Social media is not “ignorable.”

Social media has the power to make a relatively contained crisis a global conversation within minutes. It is important that clients have a clear vision of how they will respond to this and that they act fast.

  1. 7.       Issues and crises can be an opportunity to reiterate positive company messages and turn the situation to a positive.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Effective crisis management can demonstrate commitment to transparency and patient safety. Clients should be prepared to take advantage of this.

  1. 8.       Have a glass of wine on standby for the end of the day.

Goes without saying!




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