The effective use of crisis management software improves your ability to respond to and resolve crisis situations. It has the power to enhance crisis communications, accelerate crisis response times and speed crisis resolution. Helping you return to business as usual faster and protecting you from reputational damage.
To realise the full potential of your crisis management platform, you will need to correctly configure, maintain and utilise your system. This is best achieved through a combination of best practices. In this guide, we will cover these crisis management software best practices in significant detail.
If you’re starting your journey with crisis management software, the first building block is choosing the right system for your business.
To aid you in selecting the best platform, we have outlined a series of key considerations that will help inform the decision process.
If you’re looking for more guidance, we created a similar post for choosing an emergency mass notification system that covers many of the same considerations in further detail.
When a critical event occurs, one of the core functions of crisis management software is to alert individuals of the incident. This can be a message broadcast to a select group of individuals, or a company-wide mass notification.
Ensuring all recipients receive the correct communication on the right device, it’s critical you maintain up-to-date contact details. This includes all employees, external stakeholders and anyone else you communicate with when crisis events occur.
Allowing contact details to become outdated puts employees at risk of missing emergency communications, or receiving irrelevant alerts. At best, employees are misinformed, at worst, you risk endangering their lives.
To maintain up-to-date contact information in your crisis management system, consider the following best practices:
Creating a regular schedule to check contact details in your crisis management system is one of the most effective ways to ensure information remains current. Coordinating with your HR department is one of the best ways to manage this process.
You can set up a monthly meeting to compare the lists together, or it can be as simple as a regular email with the most current employee contact list. Below is a list of recommended contact details you’ll want to keep and maintain in your crisis management platform contact database:
If possible, connecting your crisis management system and your HR software is a simple and efficient way to keep contact information up-to-date. Once configured, any changes to contact details in your HR platform will be automatically replicated in your crisis management system.
You’ll need to check for compatibility, but most modern software systems offer the ability to connect with another through an API or a purpose-built plugin.
Another quick and effective way to check if contact details are current is to send a test broadcast.
Once sent, you can check test broadcast results to identify undelivered communications. Cross-referencing these with your HR department to source new contact details, or remove ex-employees.
It’s important to remove incorrect information from recipient lists. Repeatedly sending communications to dead accounts can impact your sender reputation. You also run the risk of leaking sensitive crisis information to former employees.
A common way for recipient lists to become outdated is through employees joining or leaving the business.
Work with your HR department to include an action in their process for new starters and leavers to update you. That way you can update your crisis management system accordingly.
When using crisis management software with mass notification functionality, creating and maintaining broadcast groups is a notable best practice. You’ll unlock a range of crisis management and communication benefits, including the ability to:
Here are some common broadcast groups you can create to save time and personalise messaging:
Outside these, other broadcast groups could be created for remote workers, partners, customers, stakeholders, and any other group you may consider requires personalised crisis alerts.
The foundation of fast and effective crisis management is built on extensive preparation. Creating and loading up your crisis management system with pre-prepared broadcast templates is a best practice that will significantly improve crisis communication and response capabilities.
A series of well-crafted message templates for multiple crisis scenarios will allow you to:
When creating your message templates, follow these best practices helping you to craft the perfect crisis alert:
The benefits of crisis communication templates are amplified when combined with broadcast groups. Giving you the ability to have a ready-made crisis alert that can be sent to 1000s in under 60 seconds with just a few quick clicks.
Just like an effective crisis management plan, you will want to assign roles for your crisis management system.
These roles are typically divided across administration, management, and implementation of the system. Depending on the size of your business and the functionality of your platform, this can be one person or many.
Below are roles we recommend you consider assigning for your crisis management system. These roles will often align closely with the existing roles in your crisis response team:
Any reputable crisis management system will offer identity and access management functionality. Giving you control over which users can connect to the platform, what tools they can access, and the actions they can perform with said tools.
You’ll want to review and familiarise yourself with the different access controls in your crisis management platform and map them to the assigned roles you set earlier. This will ensure everyone can access the platform functionality they require and perform the tasks needed of them.
When it comes to access, it’s best practice to only grant users access to the tools they need, and the tasks they are required to perform, nothing more. You should also minimise the number of system administrators, as each additional administrator increases the risk of your system being compromised.
If you’re using your crisis management system to send crisis alerts, it is best practice to warm up any sender accounts connected to the platform.
This is especially important if you plan to send mass notifications to large groups of individuals that are based outside your organisation. This is most relevant for email sender accounts, but can also apply to SMS sender accounts.
If you’re creating a new email sender account for crisis alerting, it will have no reputation or sender history with email service providers. These are of critical importance in ensuring your crisis alert is both sent and received, avoiding recipient spam folders and email sender blacklists.
When warming up your sender account, start small, sending out a few test broadcasts. Over time, you can then begin to slowly build up the size of the recipient lists. During the warm-up process, you’ll want to encourage your crisis alert recipients to whitelist your sending domain - this can include employees, partners, customers. This ensures your crisis alerts will appear in recipient inboxes, while also sending a positive signal to email service providers.
If you do this right, you’ll develop a strong sender reputation and history. So, when a crisis event occurs, you can be confident in sending mass notifications that will reach and inform all your intended recipients.
Getting this wrong, you run the risk of entire companies and email/mobile service providers blocking your crisis alerts. Preventing you from sending vital communications in crisis situations. Appearing on blacklists, or having your sender account locked, can take days to resolve. Which would cause significant damage to your crisis communications and response efforts.
Testing is a critical best practice for using crisis management software in your organisation. Improving your utilisation of the software while also enhancing the wider business’s crisis response efforts.
A robust testing regime will ensure system administrators keep their knowledge and skills sharp across all crisis management tools. More broadly, employees will be reminded of key crisis management processes, response expectations, and it will help create familiarity with the platform itself.
Below are some best practices for implementing crisis management software testing in your business:
Setting a regular testing schedule for your crisis management software is of the upmost importance. By design, these platforms are not intended for everyday use. Without a testing schedule, it’s possible for users to go months without using your crisis management tools. This is when knowledge and skills can get rusty, and it can negatively impact your crisis management response efforts.
Every organisation will have different opinions on what constitutes regular testing. We recommend a minimum scheduled test across the full range of functionality at least once per quarter.
If you’re testing mass notification or broadcast functionality of your platform, it would be beneficial to schedule these tests to occur inside office hours. That way, you’ll be on hand to identify any issues in real time, such as time delays between sending and receiving email and SMS communications.
Any testing of your crisis management system should be designed to be as engaging as possible. It will motivate more people to participate and promote enhanced learning as part of the experience.
If you’re testing broadcast functionality, always consider including 2-way communications to create a feedback loop. Employees and recipients are more likely to engage and familiarise themselves with the process when a response is required. Consider a follow-up communication for all non-responders to engage them and ascertain why they didn’t respond.
If your crisis management software has teleconferencing or instant group chat tools, invite the relevant crisis response teams to participate. Run a live call, or interact in a live chat. This allows them to become comfortable with the system in a controlled and low pressure situation.
Your crisis management software forms part of a larger crisis management response plan. By running a crisis simulation, you can simultaneously test both the functionality of crisis management tools and their effectiveness as part of an overall crisis management response plan.
Testing your crisis management plan and software together will develop a synergy between the two, giving all parties involved an appreciation of the role the platform plays.
Make sure to test every aspect of your crisis management software, here are just a few considerations:
The purpose of testing your crisis management software is to improve knowledge, benchmark your performance and identify areas for improvement. You can only achieve this if you analyse the key outcomes of your test and collect feedback.
If your platform has built-in analytics, this process is made easier as you’ll have ready-made reports from which you can gain valuable insight. Your analysis can be improved further when augmented with feedback from all testing participants. Your end-users are far more likely to engage when their opinions are heard.
Training employees to familiarise themselves with your crisis management software will bring significant benefits. You’ll improve the overall usage and effectiveness of the platform, employees will also have a better understanding of the role they play in crisis response.
When delivering training, administrators and platform users will need hands-on experience in configuring, managing, and performing actions on the platform. The wider business will also need an awareness of the purpose your crisis management software fulfils, along with what’s expected of them when they receive crisis alerts, or invites to teleconferences and group chats.
Below are a series of training best practices we recommend for making the most of your crisis management software.
One of the best ways to learn and make the most of the full functionality of your crisis management system is to attend training with your platform provider. This is especially important if you’re just getting started with your crisis management software and configuring it for the first time.
Training on your crisis management platform should be included in your new starter on-boarding process. The level and intensity of this training should be reflective of the employees' involvement in using the platform.
Employees who are only receiving crisis alerts, or joining teleconferences and group chats, will need basic training. Those involved in leadership activities like creating and sending broadcasts, or system administration will require more extensive hands-on training.
A well-known concept in the training community is the forgetting curve. Most often represented as a graph, it seeks to quantify the amount of information forgotten over time following training.
Hermann Ebbinghaus, who conducted the original study, theorised that knowledge retention and recall improved with repeated training. So, after the initial training of users on your crisis management software platform, we recommend you schedule regular refresher sessions to improve knowledge retention.