Crisis Management In a Digital World – Part One

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett

Why is having Crisis Management plan so important?

In our modern world, it’s no secret that social media have transformed the way organizations interact with their customers. Everyone is on the stage now, every company is revealed to its customers and transparency has become the no.1 factor in all marketing activities. Customers’ expectations went so high that brands are struggling to keep up. Therefore, one small mistake can lead to an entire PR crisis for your company if not handled properly by professionals.

That’s why; having a crisis management plan is now so important that brands, organizations and even authorities can’t afford to go public without. Operating this way is like jumping off a cliff with a complete trust that you’ll grow wings before you reach the ground.

So, How to spot a business crisis?

Let’s define a business crisis, A business crisis is: “A significant threat to operations that can negatively impact business if not handled properly”. And “Threat” is the potential damage a crisis can inflict on an organization, its stakeholders, or industry.

So, to be able to identify when it’s a crisis and when it’s not, you need to know how to separate the threat types and levels you may have to encounter. Threats that have a major impact on:

  1. Life, health and public safety (Top-level crisis)
  2. Organization’s Reputation (Top-level crisis)
  3. Financial viability (Medium-level crisis)

Of course, each of these three types can affect other two. A crisis caused by public safety will definitely impact your organization’s reputation and cost you money. As an organization, you have the responsibility to communicate before, during and after the crisis. But before you start preparing your crisis management plan, you should keep in mind that a crisis plan is not meant to transform the bad into good, but to prevent the bad from getting worse.

Responding to a crisis … Effectively!

The most crucial element in responding to a social media crisis is SPEED. Sometimes responding quickly and confidently can play the major role in reducing crisis growth rate. However, to start responding to a crisis after it has encountered you, it would be already too late. The real preparation for crises starts before the crises begin, even before your marketing activities start. So let’s discover how to start preparing for a business crisis?

Pre-Crisis Phase:

1- Social Media Monitoring

It’s considered the most vital step in your plan. Spotting the crisis coming saves a lot of time and effort responding to it. One easy way is to use a social media listening tool. Monitor the most important keywords in your industry like your brand name, competitors’ names …etc. And to take one great example is what Egypt-Air’s social media team did when (the digital platform of Haaretz Israel) tweeted about a plane Hijacking in Libya using a photo shows Egypt-Air’s plane; They responded quickly and confidently as shown in the following screenshot.

This prevented a potential threat that may have happened as a result of the misconception when any international viewer on watches this photo and then recalls the logo in future flights with Egypt-Air.

2- Identifying Stakeholders

Before starting to respond to any crisis, always identify your stakeholders. These are the ones whom you will have to involve or notify in every situation or decision you will take when a crisis happens. For a top-level crisis like for example a rumor negatively impacts your company’s product, you may think of stakeholders as:

  • Company’s Board (the ones who will take the decisions)
  • Local Media (the ones who will receive and transmit news)
  • Customers (the ones who buys your product and interacts with your brand)
  • General Public (the ones who are tuned to know about your updates)

But the fact is, there are other people whom you should identify as stakeholders during this crisis, such as:

  • Suppliers (the ones who will need to know if they can still provide you)
  • Employees (as they are a critical factor in approving or denying the rumors to their friends and families)
  • Shareholders/Investors (as they need to know the truth about your situation to provide support)

Once you identified your stakeholders, you may then start identifying HOW you will contact each one. You may use your owned channels like Emails, television, online, social media …etc.) But this won’t be enough! You need to be at your stakeholders’ channels too. You need to know what channels do your audience use to get info about this crisis and exist on it.

3- Team Preparing

Crisis Communication Response Team members are those internal players who will take over the internal/external communications during a crisis. All who can set policies and create systems to enable rapid and confident response during a specific crisis, need to be on the team. Executive Leadership, as well as CEO, might be deeply involved during a top-level crisis. However, you’re more likely to handle a mid-level crisis with just the PR team with the support of the departments’ heads and competent employees, keeping the high board informed with all the activities and operations.

Then, you must establish a chain of command as well as a crisis communication leader to steer the entire process to safety. You may also prepare spokespeople and backups who are highly trained and well prepared to communicate with the public.

4- Practicing Scenarios

Practicing scenarios for your organization’s most expected threats makes a huge impact on the ease of crisis management process. List at least 5 of your major threats that are related to each crisis level mentioned above then start to practise scenarios of handling every type of them along with your team. So when a crisis is coming, you will be prepared.



Learn how to respond and what to do during a crisis, how to develop a crisis plan and its pillars (using a template), and what other companies did right or wrong in similar crisis (case studies) as well as what to do after resolving a crisis you had. All in Crisis Management in a Digital World – part two … Stay tuned.


If you have any comments, share your opinion with me on or just drop me a comment below. Cheers.


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