How to Manage Your Association in a Crisis.


Mayday, mayday, mayday! The distress call known around the world might have the same name as International Workers’ Day – May Day – but they have no other connection, despite popular belief. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use May Day to discuss the mayday calls of associations going through crises.

Associations hope to never experience a crisis, but it’s always when you aren’t prepared that something goes wrong. And during a crisis, the last thing you want is even more chaos because no one is prepared.

Preparing before a crisis hits

Preparing for a crisis is a team effort. Everyone within the association should have access to and have a general understanding of your crisis management procedures – not everyone will be in managing positions but everyone needs to understand the basic organization of the procedures.

The crisis management team should include one representative from each department; these individuals will be permanent members of the crisis management team. Depending on the crisis and the needs of the team, temporary members should be added if they offer in-depth knowledge or if they have unique skills or talents needed.

Crisis management teams should be trained to analyze each crisis on an individual basis and determine an exact plan of action from there. Specific plans of action cannot be prepared ahead of time because each crisis is unique and will require a unique response, so prepare guidelines for creating a plan of action based on the crisis analysis.

Preparation should involve creating, communicating and practicing procedures to be taken from the moment the crisis happens, through analyzing and determining a plan of action, until the crisis is resolved and the association has recovered.

Ask yourself questions like: How will team members communicate? How will we communicate with our members? Who will assign temporary responsibilities and duties? Where will the team assemble if the regular headquarters are affected by the crisis? Create guidelines and procedures for these common issues to avoid confusion and additional problems.

Continue crisis management through full recovery

Immediate action needs to be taken following a crisis so that you don’t appear to be hiding from the crisis. Even a quick, general statement regarding the situation lets everyone know you are acknowledging the situation and action is being taken.

Throughout the course of the crisis, regular communication and updates need to be given – don’t wait for your members to come to you for information. You don’t want members to think you are hiding something from them.

Once the heat dies down, many crisis management teams go back to their previous roles while the association continues to recover, but that shouldn’t be the case. The team should continue to be involved until the association has fully recovered.

Tips for successful crisis management

During a crisis, the management team must quickly adapt to fulfill the unique needs of each individual circumstance. They must be involved, be proactive and be available. Here are a few quick tips for successful crisis management:

  1. Designate one spokesperson who has good speaking ability, is knowledgeable about the organization and the crisis at hand, and has a position of authority or leadership.
  2. Do not make rash decisions and prepare all communication ahead of time. Do not speak on the whim about the crisis.
  3. Have a social media team within the crisis management team to handle all social media communication from the association. This team will also monitor all social media activity in order to respond to, clarify or prove false any negative information regarding the association or the crisis itself.
  4. Communicate through multiple platforms to avoid making the crisis worse, like the Virginia Tech shooting where email was the sole communication platform.
  5. Keep your communications as simple as possible. You want to inform, but you don’t want to reveal too much information and you don’t want to be confusing.

Managing during a crisis will make or break an organization. Every crisis will have unique circumstances and preparing your team to adapt to these circumstances should be your goal. If you want to successfully manage during a crisis, always be prepared so you aren’t forced to send out a mayday after being caught off guard.

Thanks to MultiView Association Management for supplying this article.

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