Based on recent events, it’s time for all companies to revisit their crisis management and crisis communication plans.
Then: Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, racial profiling accusations at Macy’s, food contamination at Chipotle.
Now: Charlottesville protests, civil disturbances at Berkeley, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma.
The list goes on and on, and it never really stops. As we all know, a major crisis can arise at any time. It can be natural or man-made, short-lived or having devastating consequences over an extended period, affecting one business or many. Reactions to a crisis will vary, but crisis management and communications plans should always be up to date. They must specifically address different types of events, and, at the same time, be easy to understand and implement.
Key Components of Effective Crisis Communications Plans
It’s important to consider the following crisis management questions and components”
1. Is there an identified leader who will serve as the head of the crisis management team?
2. Is that leader of a level where they can make major critical decisions? Vice president or above? Is there a backup identified for this individual?
3. Is there a specific group (both by name and position) identified to convene and serve as the crisis management team for a major incident?
4. Are there alternates identified to serve as backup to the crisis team in the event a primary team member is absent or if the crisis continues for a long period of time?
5. Are all critical functions represented on the crisis management team? Senior management, security/loss prevention, legal, facilities, operations, public affairs, human resources, investor relations, finance, marketing, internal communications, others depending on the type of business.
6. Is there a space or venue that is designated to serve as an emergency operations center to manage major incidents?
7. Does the designated emergency operations center have adequate communications equipment – phones, computers, televisions, satellite phones, two-way radios? Any others, depending on the type of business?
8. Are communications protocols in place, both internal and external? Who directs? Who communicates, when and in what form? Remember, normal communication devices may be down during a major event. Text messages were the only form of communications immediately following Hurricane Katrina. What’s your backup plan?
9. Are internal and external contact numbers continually updated and available to the crisis team members?
10. Are regular crisis management drills and table top exercises held to assure that the crisis team is effective during a real event? Are different scenarios practiced for each drill?
Crisis Communication Guidelines
Remember communication basics.
- Honesty, candor and openness
- Collaborate with reliable resources
- Show concern and empathy
Incorporate social media into crisis communication planning and response.
- Use social media in drills
- Train all authorized communicators in the effective use of social media
But remember: social media doesn’t touch the masses.
- Statistics show that only 23 percent of adults use Twitter
- Only 2 percent of one’s Twitter followers see a tweet
- Social media is a resource – not a mass communication tool
Monitor what is being said about your organization and the crisis.
- Resources are available to provide this service
- Vet providers carefully; some are more effective than others
Do what’s right for your company’s size and industry.
- Most companies are not General Motors, nor do they have unlimited resources
- When incorporating social media into crisis communication planning, carefully define the particular needs of the company
- Keep it simple – don’t overcomplicate the process
So, don’t wait. If you are in a position to do so, be sure your company’s crisis and communications plans are current, address best practice components and drills are held regularly. If you are not in a position to lead the effort, ask questions and learn all you can about the plans in place in your company. Learn what to do. Lives, facilities, and even a company’s continued viability could depend on it.