Where is Your Crisis Plan?
Even very large corporations don’t always have a crisis preparedness plan in place…a number of years ago, we determined that of the Fortune 500, only about 20 percent had an excellent program in place, one that had been rehearsed and tested. So if you have a crisis plan that has been collecting dust, now is the time to drag it out and review, as well as update it especially with the growth in homegrown terrorism and workplace shootings.
The exposure to crises can include sexual harassment accusations, worker injuries or death, fires, shootings, disgruntled employees, inclement weather, computer or power failures, recalls and lawsuits.
There are some things that companies can do to prevent the above, but the inevitable can happen. Our mantra is, “Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” To that end, it is critical that those in charge evaluate their exposure and take steps to remedy it or be prepared to handle a crisis.
The first step is a crisis vulnerability survey. It includes reviewing existing procedures and making recommendations on how to improve outcomes from a communications point of view. This includes 1) a review of an existing crisis manual 2) addressing of potential problems and 3) a written brief of findings along with next steps.
Next, it is critical that a half-day or full day seminar for management on crisis preparedness and management be held. This should include guest speakers from public relations, the local media, a contingency planner and an attorney familiar with crisis issues.
We also recommend creating a short educational video that can be shown to staff – a “how to” primer on avoidance of common procedures in your specific industry that can lead to a crisis. A video is ideal because the same information is offered over and over to new employees and old. This provides a consistent message as opposed to different staff conveying different messages or leaving out important information all together. If your company has Spanish speakers, make sure that it is bi-lingual.
A top-notch crisis management manual includes:
- An assessment of the risks faced by the company.
- A checklist of actions that should be taken when an emergency threatens or actually occurs.
- Assignments for those who must carry out those actions (such assignments should have at least three people assigned to them whenever possible).
- A means for coordinating information gathering, preparation and dissemination, both internally and with external organizations.
- Identification of key organizations and stakeholders – fire, police, ambulance, board of directors, key customers.
- A listing of essential audiences that must be kept informed (this includes reporters, legal, executives, government, etc.).
- A plan for monitoring traditional and social media, as well as the concerns of employees, the general public and others.
Responding to a crises instead of proactively preventing it can be costly and is not an acceptable communications strategy.