What is a crisis management plan and how is it created?


Crisis Management Planning

Planning for a crisis is important for any organisation because it can happen at any time and have a significant impact on operations, reputation, and bottom line. A crisis management plan is not a guarantee that an organisation will avoid a crisis, but it can help the organisation to respond more effectively and minimize the damage if a crisis does occur.

Most organisations will, of course, have a crisis management plan on the shelf. But no plan can cater for every scenario, so it is important to keep the plan up-to-date, and to practise regularly the management and operational routines that comprise the plan. This might mean holding drills or mock exercises to test the plan. It will certainly mean involving staff in developing the plan and communicating its contents to staff who will be responsible for delivering it.

The reputation of any organisation will be magnified, well and badly, by how its leadership acts during a crisis. Understanding the importance of preserving reputation is a key element of the communications plan. Senior leadership will, and should be, highly visible when an organisation is under stress. Your stakeholders, your staff, your service users and their families will remember how you behave during a crisis. Make sure you leave them with the best possible memories of how you did!

How many times have we read the words “lessons will be learned” usually at the end of an investigation or an inquiry into a crisis? Learning lessons from the management of a crisis is, however, crucial for organisations, particularly those that are responsible for managing the care of sick or vulnerable people.

How To Create a Crisis Management Plan

Crisis management planning involves assembling a team then writing a crisis management plan. In doing so it is essential to ensure that the people involved know what their roles and responsibilities are to deal with the key priorities in managing a crisis.

The plan should contain analysis of the types of critical events that an organisation may face, together with detailed consideration of the impact that a crisis may have on the organisation, its people and its service users.

Here are 7 important steps to follow when developing a crisis management plan:

  1. Set up the command and control arrangements to manage the crisis
  2. Designate and assemble the team of people that will be responsible for delivering the crisis management plan
  3. Implement the operational measures to contain, control and to fix the issues at the heart of the crisis
  4. Identify the key stakeholders involved in the crisis, and communicate quickly and honestly with them…especially where patients and their families are affected
  5. Implement a business or service continuity plan to maintain safe and secure services to users
  6. Develop a post-crisis recovery plan to ensure lessons are learned from how the issue were addressed
  7. Have clear and honest conversations about what worked well and what could be improved next time

A well-executed crisis management plan will certainly involve an effective de-briefing process after the event. This will make sure that those involved get the chance to reflect on how they did, and how they can improve individual and team performance.

How many times have we read the words “lessons will be learned” usually at the end of an investigation or an inquiry into a crisis? Learning lessons from the management of a crisis is, however, crucial for organisations, particularly those that are responsible for managing the care of sick or vulnerable people.



Assessing the risk of a crisis

The range of issues that could create a crisis for an organisation is wide, and a prudent management would spend time considering those risks, the likelihood of their occurring, and the ways in which they could be mitigated or dealt with.

These could include operational or service failures, damage to assets or property, loss of facilities for service provision or IT infrastructure, even the impact of cyber-attacks on data or communications processes. Other examples of a crisis an organisation can face include:

  • Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes.
  • Technological disasters including data breaches and power outages
  • Product recalls occurring when a product is found to be defective or dangerous.
  • Employee misconduct including events such as fraud, theft, and sexual harassment. This can damage the organisation’s reputation and lead to legal liability.
  • Financial crisis such as bankruptcy or insolvency.
  • Regulatory crisis caused by a violation of laws or regulations.
  • Public relations crisis such as a scandal or controversy that damages the organisation’s reputation.
  • Crisis of malevolence involving cyberattacks, sabotage, or other forms of disruption.

Every crisis will be different, and a “one size fits all” approach is unlikely to work every time. Every crisis will test your organisation’s resilience across a number of disciplines.

Effective communication

In a crisis, people are looking for information and reassurance so successful crisis management will rely heavily on an effective communications plan. Communication is an important part of a crisis management plan because it is the way that an organisation can build trust and credibility with stakeholders and manage expectations and avoid surprises. Ultimately this helps to resolve the crisis, restore normalcy and protect the organisation’s reputation.

At Verita, we have wide-ranging experience of supporting management teams in crisis communications. We have learned that effective communications at the start, during and after a crisis can help an organisation survive with its reputation intact, however serious the incident it faces.

Understandably, senior executives in charge of crisis management will focus inwards on addressing the most urgent and service-critical issues first. However, this can lead a team to focus more on the operational aspects of the crisis, and to neglect the outward-facing needs to keep stakeholders informed.

What are the 5 Cs of crisis communication?

When approaching how to handle communications during a crisis, it helps to bear in mind the 5 Cs of crisis communication which are:

  • Concern: The organisation should express concern for those who have been affected by the crisis.
  • Commitment: The organisation should commit to doing everything it can to resolve the crisis.
  • Competency: The organisation should demonstrate that it is competent to handle the crisis.
  • Clarity: The organisation should communicate clearly and concisely about the crisis.
  • Confidence: The organisation should project confidence that it will resolve the crisis.

Keeping these points front of mind will help to define your communications strategy and ensure each of these important areas are covered.

How to develop a crisis communications plan

As well as following the 5 Cs, there are some specific areas an organisation should focus on when developing a crisis communications plan:

  • Ensure that the person speaking on your behalf is authoritative and well-briefed
  • Get all the facts before deciding what to say; the first message from your organisation will set the tone for what is to follow
  • Be pro-active with your communications; getting the communications plan up and running should be one of your first priorities, and your stakeholders will appreciate early contact
  • Commit to communicating as the crisis develops; one statement is rarely enough in complex and rapidly changing situations
  • Use multiple channels; social media often react quickly to events, and can rapidly overtake set piece, face-to-face briefings, news conferences and written public statements
  • Don’t forget your staff; in the rush to communicate outwards, it is all too easy to forget your internal audience
  • Find ways to monitor the reaction to your communications; it is crucial to know whether your audiences have heard and understood your messages
  • If an apology is called for, make it, and make it sincere.

Remember that your communications may need to go on for some time after the crisis is resolved.


By following these steps to develop an effective crisis management plan your organisation can be prepared and respond effectively to emergencies. Covid 19 has highlighted that a crisis can occur unexpectedly but with the right plan in place organisations can emerge from a crisis more resilient and better prepared for the future.

If you need any help with developing a crisis management plan, or crisis communications, we would be happy to talk to you about your requirements. Please get in touch or book a free consultation with us.


This article was written in February 2022 and updated with additional content in August 2023.


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