Plan for the worst: Tips for crisis management in construction

Don’t wait until the unthinkable happens. Create a crisis communication strategy now to minimize damage later.

Sean Robinson / Buildertrend

When it comes to owning a construction business, optimism usually makes for great leadership. You hope for smooth projects, happy clients and constant growth. However, sometimes it pays to be a pessimist, especially when it comes to planning for a crisis.

Let’s face it: A lot can go wrong in the construction game. Safety accidents, legal disputes, zoning issues – and that’s just to name a few common pitfalls. This is an industry that’s scaling buildings and manning power tools, not chatting by the water cooler and typing in a cubicle all day.

The threats are very real, yet many companies still lag when it comes to having a proper crisis management plan in place. That being said, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. You want to protect your reputation, mitigate risks and keep your cool.

Here are some tips to help prevent any situation from spiraling out of control.

What to do before crisis strikes

The best crisis communication strategies are proactive, not reactive. Because chances are you don’t have a crystal ball – you never know when disaster is coming your way. Plan ahead so you’re ready, whether that day is tomorrow, in two years or (hopefully) never comes at all.

  1. Assemble a crisis management dream team
  2. Most workplace committees can be fun and inspiring – this probably isn’t one of them. But those on it have an important and crucial role to your company’s success. So, who are the lucky ones that get to count themselves as members? Think key individuals like the CEO, public relations or marketing personnel, managers and legal counsel. Together, you can all create a plan of action that outlines specific responsibilities and designates one key spokesperson.

  3. Know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it
  4. Communicate, communicate and communicate some more. That’s the key to making it through a crisis. First, you want to define how you’ll share that an incident has occurred with employees and subs – whether it’s text, email, phone calls or through construction management software like Buildertrend.

    Externally, you’ll want to have press statements prepared for likely scenarios that might go wrong. Doing so beforehand gives you time to run messaging by legal and quickly respond to media inquiries.

  5. Train the team
  6. The best way to avoid risks is to identify them before they happen – then train to avoid them. All crew members should be made aware of safety, health and environment protocols and what to do in the chance something goes wrong.

    Then take it a step further.

    Remember grade school fire drills? Now you get to do the adult version. Run emergency and disaster mock drills with team members commonly on job sites to protect safety and wellbeing of life. It sounds silly – but the potential consequences of not running them are far from hilarious.

What to do in the midst of crisis

The day has come – now it’s time to act and mobilize your crisis communication plan. All that hard work you did before? It’s about to come in handy now. Taking charge immediately can be the difference between success and failure.

  1. Control the message
  2. Don’t just wait for things to blow over. Instead, control the message yourself. First, you’ll want to finalize those pre-prepared messages with accurate details of the incident to share internally and externally.

    A press release and FAQs can be distributed to media, statements sent to key stakeholders and posts made on social media for the greater community. You’ll want to keep the message audience specific, highlight safety measures the company took to avoid such incidences and how you intend to keep serving clients through this difficult time

    Transparency should be kept in mind above all else. Hiding details that may come to light later leads to a secondary crisis of miscommunication.

  3. Don’t leave ’em guessing
  4. Crises beget questions. Lots and lots of questions from clients, the internal team, media and more. Smart crisis management leaves little room for wondering – that means answering as many questions as possible. Monitor coverage after initial communication, respond quickly and you’ll have a better chance at keeping control of the situation.

    This is where the designated spokesperson comes into play. They should spend time with technical experts and leadership rehearsing prepared statement. Then they can easily answer the tough questions and paint the business in the best light possible.

  5. Record what went wrong
  6. Proper documentation is good for more than just crafting the most accurate message. It also reduces the chances of such an emergency reoccurring. Be sure to note the time, date, work that was being done, employees who were there, safety measures taken and how the situation was handled. The more detail, the better.

The crisis is over. Now what?

Phew. Take a breath – you made it through. But the work isn’t done just because an emergency is. Now it’s time to review, regroup and reset.

Comb through your crisis management marketing plan to see what went right and how things could have been handled better. Make adjustments based off your observations and feedback from the team. Also alter businesses practices that could have led to the emergency. Any one-time, fluke problem can become a full-blown threat when it happens again and again. Protect your business and employees with proper precautions.

However, a crisis doesn’t have to just be thought of as a threat to your business. It can be a learning opportunity – don’t waste it.

Marketing beyond crisis communication

Construction marketing is about more than managing when thing go wrong. In fact, 99.9% of the time it’s sharing what goes right with your business.

For more marketing and construction business tips, be sure to check out the Buildertrend Resource Library.

With hundreds of helpful articles, the only crisis here is figuring out where to start.


About the Author

Sean Robinson
Sean Robinson

Sean Robinson is a copywriter at Buildertrend

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