The Secret Ingredient in an Effective Crisis Plan


Pitching wins baseball championships.

Bread is the key to a great sandwich.

Good friends make people happier in life.

So, what is the one indispensable ingredient that makes a crisis plan work most effectively?

I would strongly argue that the answer is not the length of the plan, the protocols, scenarios, team, training, technology or leadership – although they are all important.

It’s trust.

Trust helps you avoid crises in the first place – you tend to get the benefit of doubt when things go wrong.

Trust also means that people will listen with an open mind to what you have to say in the aftermath of a serious adverse event.

The challenge is that we live in a world where trust is in short supply. 

People have never been more skeptical of the integrity of major public institutions, including brands and corporate America. 

I was reminded recently of the importance of trust – and the consequences of having not earned it before your organization faces a reputation-threatening crisis – when Morning Consult Brand Intelligence published its report on the state of consumer trust.

The report’s introduction lays out the gloomy prognosis:

“Distrust is rippling through the country and is particularly potent when concerning major institutions and concentrations of power."

“Today, less than a quarter of Americans have a lot of trust in their neighbors or labels on feed packaging, while less than one in 10 say the same about the news media or US government.”

A majority of Americans distrust corporate America  - 54% said they had little or no trust compared with just 30% who had some or a lot of trust, the rest said they didn’t have an opinion.

And things are only likely to get worse as younger consumers are even more skeptical than the older generations!

So how do you ensure that trust is earned by your organization, ready to be deployed when the worst happens?

The Morning Consult Report says 18-29 year-olds prioritize these issues when they decide whether to trust organizations:

  • Strong ethical or political values
  • Treat employees better than they are required by law
  • Produce products in an ethically responsible way
  • Treat employees equally, regardless of factors like race or gender

This is different than the list of top issues cited from responses of consumers of ALL ages, where the top four factors are focused more on reliability than ethics:

  • Protect my personal data
  • Make products that work as advertised
  • Make products that are safe
  • Constantly deliver on what they promise

The report gives us the list of the brands in the US which are getting it right.

Slightly surprisingly the list is topped by the US Postal Service – with Amazon, Google, PayPal and The Weather Channel, rounding out the top five, in that order.

As you review and update your crisis preparedness plans and resources for the upcoming year, it’s worth stepping back from the specifics on the plan’s content, staffing and mechanics and asking yourself a really big question – are we doing enough to earn trust among our stakeholders now, before we face that test of our reputation?

Preparing a new crisis plan for your organization in 2020? Want to learn more about how our award-winning crisis app, In Case of Crisis, trusted by more than 750 organizations worldwide, will help you? Click here to register for an app demo and have your questions answered.