Crisis Management in your Community Business Partnership

A crisis can strike a community-business partnership at the most inopportune time.

Despite the good work the partnership may be doing, or what it has achieved in the past, things can go wrong, accidents can happen and controversies can blow up.

It's important that when something does go wrong the hard-won public confidence in your group is not the first thing that suffers. Sectors of the public will probably want answers and the best thing any community-business partnership can do is supply those answers quickly, honestly and to the best of their ability.

Whether it's an accident or incident at a partnership event, a controversial initiative, a mistake or a disagreement involving your partnership, it is important that you act quickly to explain your position.

First things first

The first priority, of course, is to ensure the safety of everyone involved and ensure there is no risk of danger or threat. Many risks can be avoided totally by having a solid risk management strategy in place when establishing your partnership.

There are more than 20 free Help Sheets on risk management – covering a number of different risks that may present themselves - at Our Community's Community Insurance Centre.

Once it is obvious there are no further risks to partnership members, it is time to swing a crisis management plan into action.

Ten Tips to Help your Group Retain its Credibility, Standing and Integrity Throughout any Public Crisis

  • Prepare for the crisis.  Basic contingency plans should have been discussed when your partnership was being developed. Those contingency plans should include a basic communications plan – that way, everyone knows who to call in an emergency and the importance of relaying accurate information quickly to a central point.
  • Accept there is a crisis. The sooner you start to take action, the better for you and the public. Don't put your head in the sand, refuse to comment or deny there is a problem – it won't go away. Some groups or individuals make this mistake and while they eventually end up speaking, it is only after a long delay - a delay that inevitably erodes their public standing.
  • Identify a spokesperson or persons who can speak on behalf of the partnership. In a community-business partnership, it is a good idea to nominate one person each from the business and the community group to speak publicly on relevant issues – but make sure they are also communicating with each other to ensure they are relaying the same message to the public. It is a good idea to make sure they are the highest-ranking people possible, with access to the most up-to-date information.
  • Be aware that the media might well be asking the questions, but it is the public listening to the answers. The "public" includes your partnership members and supporters, donors, clients or customers, and potential sponsors. They need to be given answers and explanations. For more information on this topic, refer to the Help Sheet: Crisis Management and the Media
  • Release accurate information. When you have accurate information, release it as quickly as you can. Even if legal issues afffect the amount of information you can release, you still need to respond. Even if it's just to say that for legal reasons you cannot comment on the matter.
  • Avoid speculation. It can be tempting to speculate when asked a question about an issue, but fight that temptation. Say only what you know to be true, stick to the facts and definitely don't guess.
  • Continue with ongoing updates. If the issue or crisis is ongoing, keep the public updated on the latest information and how your partnership is responding.
  • Stay calm. In a time of crisis, people are looking for strong leadership from someone they can trust to stay in control. Losing your focus is not going to engender confidence among those in the partnership, or the public.
  • Keep your staff and members, and your partnership partner, informed. Tell them what is happening, why it is happening and what you are doing about it.
  • Don't shoot the messenger. Devote your energy to dealing with the crisis to bring about the best outcome possible, not to shooting the messenger for bringing the problem to your attention.