Planning for a Crisis


In honor of today’s anniversary of September 11, 2001 and in light of yesterday’s attack on, I would like to spend this entry talking about an extremely important, but often overlooked part of business. Your crisis plan.

If you have a business, you need to have a crisis plan. As yesterday’s attack on Go Daddy indicated, no matter how large or small you are, there are always external factors that can negatively impact or harm your business.  Yesterday’s attack didn’t just bring down GoDaddy, it brought down millions of sites, worldwide.  In a much more serious example, the attack on our country 11 years ago didn’t just harm businesses, it killed thousands of people, profoundly changed the American psyche and led to long-term political and economic turmoil.

So what exactly should one deem a “crisis” in the first place?  I prefer the definition from the Institute of Public Relations:

A crisis is defined here as a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly.  In crisis management, the threat is the potential damage a crisis can inflict on an organization, its stakeholders, and an industry.  A crisis can create three related threats:  (1) public safety, (2) financial loss, and (3) reputation loss.  Some crises, such as industrial accidents and product harm, can result in injuries and even loss of lives.

It’s critical, when starting your business, to create a crisis plan as well.  You may never have to use it – and let’s hope you don’t – but if you do, knowing how to handle a crisis with a cool head and focus will make you look more reputable in the long run.

I won’t lie, identifying crisis situations can be daunting but it is necessary.  To get started, follow these easy steps:

  1. Define all the possible events that could have negative implications for your business. Don’t forget to include external factors like forces of nature, changes in local laws and site outages.
  2. Identify how these situations could harm your business or professional reputation.
  3. Identify how you will resolve the situations – remember we are talking about a crisis, so think that this may be a long-term approach.
  4. Develop your communications channels and spokesperson (if necessary) in advance.
  5. Drill this plan at least once a year.

While you cannot predict everything, if you know how to respond to your customers, vendors, investors, media and possibly government officials when the time comes, you will find things run a little easier if you have already prepared.


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