By the time a crisis hits an organisation, it’s too late to start putting together a communication infrastructure to help the people who will ultimately assume responsibility for the response to the crisis: the CEO and board of directors.

A real crisis – a product recall, a strike, an environmental disaster, a data breach or a regulatory probe, for example – is a critical time for an organisation. If it is badly handled, it can ultimately destroy a hard-won reputation. But good management, showing decisive leadership and a strong commitment to the company’s values in the face of adversity, can make an organisation even stronger.

The person in the spotlight during the crisis is inevitably the CEO. His or her fate will often be determined by the effectiveness of the advice, communication and decision making processes of the board as a whole, which must step up to manage the health of the company, and the interests of shareholders or other stakeholders. Its every action will be scrutinised, during and after the crisis.

Getting the processes and systems in place ahead of time is vital. Every business should be prepared, by having a crisis management plan and a communication infrastructure in place. That infrastructure should allow you to:

1. Make Decisions

Give your board access to all the information they need to make tough decisions. That might include having to hand historical information on how other companies have handled similar issues; or research into the likely outcome of the crisis, for example.

2. Stay Secure

If you’re a listed company, or you handle confidential data, unsecured email isn’t the best place to discuss sensitive corporate information. Use a secure, encrypted and password-protected communication system to make sure information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

3. Collaborate

If your board is able to work collaboratively, you’ll reach those important decisions much more quickly. You’ll also reduce duplication of work. Getting 10 different views on separate emails isn’t always helpful, but having a single area where a unified discussion can take place is a much more efficient way of making a decision.

4. Document Your Processes

Document the communication with your board through the crisis. You might need to show the trail in the event of an investigation after the crisis is over.

5. Get The Agreement Of The Board

A mechanism for voting is useful to get quick answers from people who may be based all over the world.

6. Act Fast

Time is of the essence during a crisis. You’ll need to get information to the right people, quickly, wherever they are. Consider the best way to alert key people to the crisis, and their role within it.

Facing a crisis is challenging for any company. But having the right systems in place in advance, enables you to focus on the thing that most need your attention: the reputation of the organisation.