Crisis events present urgent problems which require immediate attention. However, in formulating an appropriate response, it can be difficult to get to grips with the chaotic and seemingly unpredictable way in which crises can develop. Whilst this is true, this does not mean that crises cannot be planned for or anticipated.

Common pitfalls that organisations can encounter in dealing with a crisis include:

  1. failure to recognise the signs of an emerging crisis – by putting in place a compliant culture generally, organisations are better placed to avoid crises that emerge because they have an awareness of issues that may need to be dealt with;
  2. making public statements – it is imperative that internal investigations are not mishandled so that working theories and assumptions are not made public;
  3. social media - organisations should at a minimum have internal processes to ensure that staff are not posting status updates or rumours on social media sites; and
  4. unrealistic messages – it is crucial that the key facts are understood and communicated accurately.

The key to successful crisis management lies in planning and then testing these plans to allow for informed decision making. Whilst the contents of these plans will vary there are particular elements that all plans should contain. These include: up-to-date information on the key personnel, together with contact details, roles and tasks in relation to handling the crisis; details of the process by which the organisation will identify a crisis event; provision for a situation room; and considering levels of control and authority limits in a crisis situation.

Ensuring that common pitfalls are avoided is extremely difficult. However, by considering these types of issues during its planning process, an organisation can take the necessary steps to help avoid them arising. It is vital that the plan is tested, to identify and take steps to rectify any weaknesses or gaps in the plan.

The more an organisation has planned for crisis events, the better able it will be to deal with these difficult situations. This is of even greater significance given the increasing focus by regulators generally on the role of individual directors and senior staff. Crisis planning needs to also account for this changing regulatory environment and consider how an organisation will deal with key directors/managers being implicated in any resulting investigation.