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Proactive crisis management: Expecting the unexpected

Author(s): Andrew MacDougall, Lawrence E. Ritchie

Mar 8, 2017

The effective handling of a crisis starts long before the crisis actually strikes. With proactive preparation and a thorough, well-developed crisis response plan, counsel can help the board and senior management build a corporate culture of compliance and preparedness, and can ensure that all of the necessary processes are in place in the event of a crisis. This reference guide outlines the steps counsel should take when developing a crisis response plan and offers best practices for dealing with a crisis when it happens.

For more detailed information and to access additional resources, visit Osler’s Brief the Board series.

Building blocks to a crisis response plan

  1. Identify your team
  2. Develop internal & external communication plan
  3. Conduct internal investigation
  4. Engage with regulatory – voluntary
  5. Engage with regulator – search & seizure
  6. Anticipate & manage other fallout
  7. Up-the-ladder reporting


During a crisis

The needs of the board

  • Regular and timely reporting
  • Clear understanding of PR strategy and their role
  • Quantification of exposure
  • One point of contact
  • Separate legal representation (if applicable)
  • A clear statement of the questions they need to decide

Support for legal

  • Monitor the process – What went well?
  • Determine facts and root causes of the event
  • Is this our incident?
  • Internal policy duties, compliance and insurance
  • Legal – privilege, records management, contractual obligations
  • Review and input on communications


  • Communications Strategy – top to bottom of the organization
  • Stakeholder messages
  • Public reputation management
  • Determine risk and assess responsibility
  • Determine corrective actions
  • Prepare report and share learnings

Preparing for a crisis effectively starts by proactively developing a culture…

of Compliance

  1. Develop procedures to prevent and detect illegal activity
  2. Mandatory training about procedures and protocols, and consequences of non compliance
  3. Defined confidential reporting system
  4. Appropriate incentives and disciplinary measures
  5. Continue improvement through periodic testing and review

of Preparedness

Being comfortable with your organization’s crisis response plan will allow you to respond effectively to a crisis or any other extraordinary conditions:

  1. Systematic approach
  2. De-escalate
  3. Timeline decisions
  4. Clear thinking
  5. Leverage trusted experts

Best practices:

  1. Test your crisis response plan
  2. Review the results
  3. Improve your plan

Download PDF: Proactive Crisis Management: Expecting the Unexpected

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