In our age, there are two types of institutions: those who have faced a crisis, and those who have just begun. Crisis happens, and when it does, you won’t be judged by the crisis, as much as by your response.
Having faced many forms of crisis with clients, from fires to interruptions of vital public services, and from public and private institutions facing damage to their reputations, we know that lack of crisis preparation only compounds the crisis. Operations fail, employees become confused, and the organization is perceived as uncaring or incompetent.
Prepare 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 these scenarios 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 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.