Crises happen. Whether it’s a natural disaster or one that has developed internally, a crisis can occur at any time on both a large or small scale. What separates those companies who manage a crisis well versus those who find themselves on the year-end blunders reel is one simple act: Practice.

Issues that are handled poorly often result in the CEO getting fired, but issues handled well could become the highlight of their career. Who do you want to be?

While you can’t always prevent a crisis from occurring, you can be ahead of the game when it happens. Planning for a crisis should not begin the minute you receive an urgent phone call. Planning should start right now. Yes! Right now.

Padilla’s Crisis Practice Lead, Brian Ellis, spoke with Georgetown University about the importance of crisis planning. Here’s a few tips to get you started:

1. Determine your threats ahead of time.

Gather your team and have an honest discussion about the threats which put your company most at risk. If your business is food, there is always the risk of contamination and recalls. Maybe you work in manufacturing where safety is a top concern. And of course, there are situations we see making headlines in the news – natural disasters, workplace misconduct and violence.

Prioritize your threats and develop a strategic plan with defined roles and objectives for your leadership team. And don’t forget to develop your messaging. What are you going to say? Where are you going to say it? Who is delivering the message? Who are your key stakeholders?

2. When delivering your message, be authentic.

Now that you have prepared your messaging, take a closer look at it. Is it filled with corporate speak and jargon? Then it’s time to rewrite with more straightforward language.

While a corporate message may appear official, it’s not effective, and many will question your true intent. Your stakeholders should understand what you really mean. And if they don’t, it will hurt your efforts to mitigate one crisis – and may start a new one.

3. Control the message.

According to a 2018 Pew Research Center report, 68% of adults in the U.S. at least occasionally get their news on social media. This provides a tremendous opportunity to connect and directly engage with your stakeholders who are actively using digital platforms to receive their news and updates. It also provides a controlled environment where you can tell your brand’s story instead of letting the news cycle shape it without your input.

A crisis can actually provide an opportunity to build an organization’s reputation and raise its visibility. The more you plan for a crisis and practice your efforts, the more control you will have handling the incident successfully. Crises move very quickly but practice slows it down. The crisis preparedness helps you understand the mechanics of a response, making the situation easier to resolve.

Have you ever wondered whether your company is prepared to manage a crisis situation? Take our Crisis IQ quiz here.