Crisis management: don’t make a crisis into a drama

Crisis Management I hear you say? Why do I need that?

Even with the most well thought out plans and procedures in place every organisation can suffer from a crisis from time to time. The most important things are how the crisis is dealt with, how quickly it is resolved and what the lasting perceptions are with your stakeholders.

The first and most important piece of advice is to brief your comms team as early as possible. If you don’t have one get an agency or person involved that has crisis experience. It is vital you have someone there even if it’s just to give you advice. Also you must be open and honest with them. They need to know everything – that is the only way they can make sure they are advising you properly. Any surprises that crawl out of the woodwork that they aren’t prepared for could do a lot of damage.

Be prepared in advance. While it may seem stupid to prepare for something that might never happen it can be your saving grace.

Here’s a great quote to illustrate this:

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

How do we plan as an organisation? To give you some quick tips think about the questions below:

What crises could hit us?

Talk to your team – what do they find are the usual challenges. Take a look at social media and see what others say about your organisation. A simple criticism or question left unanswered can soon escalate. Look through media coverage. Do a simple Google search. It’s that easy.

Who are our audiences?

If you have a comms team they should know this already. If you don’t have a comms team, think about your stakeholders. What kind of media might be interested in you? National, Local, Trade? Who are your key suppliers? Do you work with, or have an impact on, any local charities, government organisations or interest groups? Make a list of these and keep it somewhere where you can easily draw on it quickly.

How do we currently communicate with them?

Do you already have the phone numbers or email addresses of your stakeholders? Do you already email them? Could you ask them their preferred method of contact and put them into a database so they are accessible?

Are you in touch with your audiences often?

If you are it may be easier to get them on-side.

What are our key messages?

You should think about what your key messages are. What things do you need to get across about your organisation? These should be short, sharp and to the point.

Who do we have on board that could be part of our crisis communications team?

Think about who might be a good face to talk to the media. Have they had media training? Do they need it? Have they done interviews before? Are they knowledgeable about this specific area of the company? You may need more than one spokesperson for different crises. What steps do you need to take to prepare the team? Who is responsible for crafting the messages? Who briefs the spokesperson? Who will write up statements and get sign offs? Who will man the phones?

How do we co-ordinate them?

You have a crisis team but what do you do with them? Establish a crisis protocol and decide how members of the crisis team will be contacted in an emergency. Do you have everyone’s phone numbers? Make sure a plan is in place so that everyone can be contacted and plans are made to hold a conference call or meeting within at least half an hour of a crisis breaking. A list of actions and tasks should be assigned in this meeting.

The questions above are just a few tips to get started and essential for planning before a crisis hits. It can be very difficult to get senior figures to prepare and sign off crisis plans in advance so our biggest tip would be to do a dummy run or crisis work shop day with your crisis team. This usually highlights any issues and shows who is most in need of some training.

There’s loads more we could say but this should help get you started. For a crisis plan give us a call and we can help.

Good luck!

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