10 elements of a strong crisis plan and common response fails

Crisis planning can be overwhelming, but you know it’s necessary. Also, bad news travels quickly amidst today’s condensed news cycle. So being prepared before a crisis is more important than ever.

Having a strong plan provides everyone transparent roles and responsibilities. These ten elements should form the basis of every crisis plan. When we create crisis plans for clients, each of these sections involve easy-to-read checklists and visuals:

  • Contact Information
  • Crisis Team Organization Chart
  • Initial Response Team Checklist
  • Logistics Checklist
  • Operations Checklist
  • External Communications Checklist
  • Stakeholders Checklist
  • Internal Communications Checklist
  • Media Policy
  • Social Media Policy

In addition to a plan, we run clients through “stress tests” of their crisis response on a regular basis. No matter the industry or size of the organization, there are a few common deficiencies that we unocver. Addressing these before a crisis hits can mean the difference between an effective response and a disaster:

  1. The wrong person is receiving media inquiries: Your front desk administrator may be exceptional at his or her job, but chances are, they are not ready for an aggressive journalist with a camera. The moment a crisis hits, staff the front desk with a senior communicator who can help with any media visitors. Train all other staff to divert media inquiries received via phone or email to the appropriate PR team member. All inquiries should be carefully screened by your PR team to determine whether or not an interview should be granted, to understand what kind of story may be developing and to carefully prepare for interviews.
  2. Confident executives crumble under the stress: We have seen CEO’s who shine in all other media and public speaking roles lose composure under the extreme stress of a crisis. Test your spokespeople in stressful, time-crunched situations to determine their true camera readiness. If necessary, select alternative spokespersons who are able to maintain calm amidst a crisis.
  3. Logistical failure: You need to assemble the crisis response team urgently and get to work on mitigation ASAP. So, if the conference room is a mess, no one knows how to use the polycom, phone numbers can’t be found, etc, your team’s response will be significantly slowed down. Preemptively make a decision about which conference room would be suitable for a war room in the future. Make preparations now for a working conference phone, projector and Wi-Fi access, white boards, phone trees, etc.
  4. No brand ambassadors are available for support: Have a list of advocates that would be suitable to add a complementary voice to a story during a crisis. These can include happy customers, partners, trade associations where your company has a membership, volunteers, etc. This is something strong to offer to reporters and provides an extra layer of reputation management for your business.
  5. The CEO is directly reachable: While this level of accessibility may sound nice, having journalists or other angry parties able to reach your top executives directly can cause chaos and added stress during a crisis. Ensure your CEO and other executives are not reachable via an outside line without screening. And like we mentioned before, make sure the right staff is screening those calls.

Above all else, we recommend continuing crisis training on a regular basis – by doing so you can be up to date on media trends and likely crisis scenarios. From there you can keep your response protocol and messaging refined.

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