An effective crisis response starts long before a catastrophe occurs, with people, preparedness and testing, says a recent article from PwC’s strategy+business.

People: Governance Structure and Relationships

Human connection is central to crisis preparation. People need to know what to do next and who’s in charge. The formal governance structure encompasses reporting relationships (the chain of command) along with the escalation or decision rights given to key individuals and their backups. Also consider cultivating relationships with local interest groups, industry bloggers and activist investors, as they can be valuable resources in the aftermath of a crisis.

Preparedness: Planning and Execution

Analyze the capabilities you already have and how they could help you in a crisis. Run through contingencies and what-ifs, drawing on sources of expertise throughout the company. The response plan should be broad enough to cover any type of crisis, such as an operational disruption, cyber breach, terrorist attack, natural disaster, crime, pandemic, labor dispute, financial meltdown, product failure or ethical scandal. It should also be focused enough to fit your company’s unique culture, practices and strategy. Those in charge must be able to recognize a crisis early, figure out the causes, assemble the response team, handle issues requiring immediate attention, alert the rest of the organization and align everyone with the process.

Testing: Rehearsing Your Actions

Rehearsing a simulated crisis will help reveal whether there are overlooked logistics issues or your response team is in need of more training. Computer-based role-playing exercises for teams are available using video clips, mock social media feeds, etc. to provide the look and feel of an actual crisis. Simulations can be tailored to rehearse particular crises, such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, to evaluate the quality of your response and fill in the gaps. Remember that bad news travels fast and a delay can impact your company’s reputation and lead to lost business.

See the full article: “Being Ready for a Crisis.”