EP #40 – Crisis Readiness for the Hospitality Industry

Melissa AgnesCrisis Management Strategist Melissa Agnes

Understanding what it takes to be crisis-ready is essential for any organization, but in the hospitality industry, we are especially vulnerable to crisis and must proactively train our teams to be prepared for any and all foreseeable events.

In this episode, Susan is joined by crisis management strategist Melissa Agnes. A published author and highly sought-after consultant, Melissa has worked with a wide variety of organizations, among them NATO and Hilton. Her book, Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World (2018) is a higher-education staple.


A crisis-ready organization, according to Melissa, is one that is “cultural”. The traditional crisis management plan is typically theoretical and “sits on a shelf somewhere”. Since any crisis happens quickly, being dependent on a “stagnant plan” does a disservice to the organization. The best culture is one that prioritizes people and understands its stakeholders well. This includes three key points that must be intrinsically understood by everyone in the team: 1) They can identify a risk in real-time; 2) They can determine whether the risk is a true crisis or a minor issue; 3) They know precisely what to do to deal with the risk, coming out with “increased trust and credibility built into your brand.” Such a culture, when properly nurtured, builds brand invincibility that can weather any storm in today’s uncertain world.


The first step to achieving this is to do an audit of the mindset of your team’s current culture to evaluate the lens through which they currently look and respond to risks. Every adjustment you make in this department will ultimately impact your customer service and competitive edge.


The next step is to map out your stakeholders. Create a consolidated list of the important relationships in your organization. It is these people who matter when a crisis or a viral issue strikes. They need to “trust that the brand will continue to do right by them” in any situation; so it helps to understand these stakeholders and anticipate any questions that may come up during the one to two-hour timeline that an incident plays out. To determine who these key people are, it helps to start with the question: “What are all of the ways that the [organization] exists and thrives?”


The “leaders” of the organization (arguably every single team member) must learn how to communicate with emotional intelligence in order to minimize friction when an incident comes up. This will help those individuals, tasked with owning the process, to be fully informed and act quickly.


Melissa’s mantra is: “People above process and bottom-line, always.” When in any sort of doubt, by simply focusing on doing what is right by your people, you are already headed in the right direction. When you put people first, profit naturally follows.


Melissa’s website: https://melissaagnes.com/

Melissa’s book: Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World


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