What is the Difference Between Incident Management and Crisis Management

Written by Tejas Katwala
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Crisis management involves strategic deployment of communications plans to mitigate losses to brand reputation and share information with key parties.


People often use the terms "incident management" and "crisis management" interchangeably. Yet, as seen in the recent post, 7 Core Elements of Enterprise Resilience, both are part of a comprehensive business continuity management solution.

Understanding the nuanced differences between the two concepts helps organizations to plan effectively, developing robust strategies and processes that can be deployed when faced with either a crisis or an incident.

What is the difference between incident management and crisis management? It comes down to a difference in scope.

What Crisis Management Is

Crisis management is a strategic approach to issues, focused largely but not exclusively on communication. Crisis management is usually handled at the C-suite level and has an emphasis on brand and reputation management.

A crisis is a situation that poses a threat to the organization’s very existence. If the situation is not resolved, the results could be catastrophic to the enterprise. In today’s dynamic media space, crises can arise fast and snowball even faster, driven by a 24/7 media cycle, the presence of social media, and access to information and opinion that may not be accurate or relevant.

Managing a crisis means being proactive and fast, focusing on rapid resolution and recovery that is effective. It also means clear, effective communication that is sent to stakeholders, shareholders, regulators, the general public, and employees via multiple media and messengers.

Planning for a crisis means preparing the organization for potential crises and developing the processes that will be used when or if a crisis is declared. Once in a crisis, it is time to put those processes and capabilities into play, providing for responses that can be delivered consistently and accurately. Consider that communication in a response needs to involve traditional print and broadcast media, text and voice, multiple social media channels, and your employees themselves, from customer relations to front-line salespeople and executives.

Incident management involves a specific response to an event that is categorized, assessed, and addressed.

 What Incident Management Is

Incident management is much more specific, with a particular event occurring that could lead to a loss of operations, services, or functionality. An incident, if not handled well, can lead to a crisis.

Incident management comprises the processes of identifying and categorizing incidents, investigating those incidents, and remedying any losses of services, access, or capability that result. Once an incident has been identified and reported, it involves deploying plans to respond appropriately to the incident and reporting on the outcomes of that response implementation.

Incidents often vary in scope and impact, meaning it is critical that organizations have solutions in place that will determine the type or category of the incident and the scope of that incident’s impact on systems, operations, or users. This assessment is essential for determining how incidents are addressed.

An Integrated Management Solution

There is one common element to both crisis and incident management processes: learning and assessment. One powerful component to sound planning is to assess post-event why the event occurred and what can be learned from it. This information should be used to adjust plans and responses for the next event, building institutional resilience in the process.

At Continuity Logic, we provide organizations with enterprise business continuity management solutions that enable planning, responses, and assessment of crises and incidents. Contact us to learn more about how Continuity Logic can help your company prepare for events and respond with resilience.