Having encountered many forms of crisis with clients, from fires in public places of business, to interruptions of vital public services, to municipalities and religious institutions facing damage to their reputations, we’ve learned that crisis can come to us all. The only thing worse than facing a crisis, is facing it unprepared.
Lack of crisis preparation only compounds the crisis. Operations fail, employees become confused, and the organization is perceived as incompetent. Organizations should be prepared by developing a comprehensive Crisis Communications Plan, taking the following four steps:
Step 1. Anticipate and prioritize potential crisis scenarios: Gather your executives and communications team for some serious brainstorming sessions on all the potential crises that could occur at your organization. Then prioritize using a risk matrix.
Step 2. Form your crisis communications team: A small team of senior executives should be identified to serve as your organization’s Crisis Communications Team. Ideally, the organization’s CEO will lead the team, with the firm’s top communications executive and legal counsel as his or her chief advisers.
Step 3. Identify and train spokespersons: Only authorized spokespersons should speak in a crisis, and they should be prepared to answer tough questions.
Step 4. Identify your stakeholder audiences, prepare protocols and holding statements: While full message development must await the outbreak of an actual crisis, “holding statements” can be prepared for use immediately after a crisis.