The guide to budgeting for a new crisis plan


You have finally convinced your colleagues that NOW is the time to update, refresh and strengthen your organization’s crisis preparedness plan.

You shared with them the findings from the AON-sponsored study, the topic of our previous blog, which revealed that the adverse impact of reputation events on stock prices has doubled in the digital age.

And you pointed to the AON report’s conclusion that a robust reputation risk preparedness plan can be the difference between an upswing of 20 per cent increase in value or a loss of 30 per cent in the aftermath of a crisis.

You used the examples of Wells Fargo and Papa John’s as companies with previously stellar reputations, which did not protect them when they seriously fumbled their responses to adverse reputation events which continue to drag those companies down, including a negative impact on their stock prices and loss of business.

So now you have been asked to scope out and budget for a crisis plan that will assess the risks and protect the company in a digital age crisis.

What should you include in that scope of work?

  • Risk assessment & research: The first step is to audit existing plans – what’s missing and what has changed (this will depend on how long ago the plans were last updated!). You will also want to interview key executives, covering as many key functions and geographies as possible – they will have a keen sense of the emerging and most pressing risks in their own areas. If budgets and the timeline allow it, a formal risk assessment is invaluable, although in practical terms this is often just a bit too rich for the budget for many corporate communications departments.A review of best practices in your own industry or in the wider world of crisis response will also help guide your project.
  • Organizational response & protocol: The first section of the playbook is about how the overall organizational response to a crisis. Who is on the team and what roles do they play? How do you assess the level of risk from a specific issue (over-reaction can be as dangerous as under-reaction)? What are the processes which support and guide the response? Do we have the tools and resources to manage an issue via social and digital media? What are the escalation protocols which govern how and when an issue is raised in priority and senior management alerted? What are the resources to be deployed in tackling and analyzing the highest priority issues identified in the risk assessment?
  • Individual scenario responses: The second section of the preparedness playbook includes individual response plans to the threat scenarios that are most likely or pose the biggest danger to the organization’s business and reputation. The individual plans would include responses at varying levels of threat; draft statements and talking points; and other resources that would be needed to effectively manage the situation, especially in the early stages.
  • Access & activation: It’s one thing to have your plan content written and approved, it’s another to have it readily accessible and actionable when a fast looming reputation event threatens. Especially if the crisis begins out of office hours, such as a holiday weekend. We are biased, but that’s when you need our award-winning mobile crisis management platform, In Case of Crisis. With a few touches of an app on your smartphone, it allows you to activate the crisis team, gives instant access to the plan and provides the tools to collaborate on a response to the emerging crisis.
  • Team preparedness & training: You don’t want the team’s first experience of a crisis – and the first test of their grasp of the crisis preparedness plan – to be a real, fast moving and highly dangerous threat. Build into your budget at least one workshop which will test the team with a realistic, though scripted, scenario drawn from your organization’s crisis playbook. During the workshop the team will be faced by an issue which starts slowly but then, during the session, begins to grow more serious and complex. At the higher end of the budget, realistic social media posts and broadcasts are created to make the situation even more real. The observations from this workshop will allow you to further strengthen the crisis plan and team.

Good luck with getting crisis planning on your organization’s list of 2019 budget priorities.

We live in uncertain times, with both old and emerging risks posing a threat to your reputation.

Social and digital media accelerates the threat and is the source of many of the newer risks.

The cost of getting it wrong and finding yourself fighting a serious issue with an out-of-date crisis playbook can be catastrophic.

Ask Wells Fargo and Papa John’s.