An unfortunate reality of life is that crises occur, and they often occur when we least expect it. Few organizations are hit with a crisis situation on a Tuesday afternoon at 2pm when things are a bit slow and all hands are on deck. So what are some steps your organization can take to prepare today?
1) Start planning now
Plan and prepare before you need to. What are your organizational themes when you are not in crisis mode? Identify your key messages. Who is on the messaging team? What does your organization stand for when there is no crisis? What is your organization known for? What are your organizational weaknesses?
2) Crisis Response/Crisis Communication Plan
You must have a written crisis response plan.
I often ask executives if their organization has a crisis response and communication plan. The answer is almost always – “Yes.” I ask if they know what is in it – at this point the “Yes” gets a bit more sheepish. I ask if they have reviewed it in the past 6 months – this is when nervous laughter begins.
Make sure to create your plan, review your plan regularly, amend your plan and ensure that every key member of your core team is intimately familiar with the plan.
3) Assemble your direct Crisis Response/communication Team… Today!
Determine Roles, Chain of Command, Crisis Command Posts…today, before you need to. Trying to figure this out while you are in full crisis mode can really put the organization in a precarious position.
Who is in charge of what? Who manages the existing business? Who reaches out to customers who have yet to be affected? Who reaches out to Regulators? Who contacts employees? Who reaches out to neighboring businesses? Who is in contact with the community? The media? The list goes on and on.
4) Assemble your professionals
Public relations professionals, communication specialists, industry experts, compliance professionals, public affairs professionals, outside counsel, audit teams and crisis experts should be on auto-dial. Develop relationships today. Identify and interview key consultants when things are quiet.
Identifying and retaining key professionals in crisis is much more difficult and much more expensive; it allows for limited to no time to get up to speed on your business, and your situation. It also allows for considerable time to pass and the crisis to escalate.
5) Determine Internal Communication Protocol
Who will be responsible for communicating internally to ensure that no one is “talking outside of school.” What is the process for disseminating information throughout the organization?
If you do not communicate internally, you can rest assured your employees will, and chances are you will not be happy with what they are saying and telling others.
Any person who has a touch point outside of the organization (which is everyone) has the potential to deliver a message externally that contradicts the organizational message – this usually happens because no one told that individual what was occurring.
This is the first of a 3 part series. Please stay tuned for the Pt II…