Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Crisis Planning

When is the right time to plan for a crisis? Probably before it's staring you in the face.

So often in my marketing classes students were told, "Failing to Plan is a Plan to Fail." I can remember rolling my eyes every time the professor drove this crisis management vehicle into our heads.

Most organizations or agencies often don't believe that they need a crisis plan until having a strategic discussion of all the things that could happen.  Organizations or celebrities at one time or another may be faced with a crisis of some degree. When a crisis strikes, communications is critical to protecting the organization's reputation, brand and ability to fulfill its mission.

A great way to get started with your clients or with your board members is to conduct an activity that is often used called "What Could Go Wrong?"  The activity is a great opportunity to share ideas of real disasters and sometimes not so real ones that could affect an organizations brand. All disasters can be placed on post it notes and placed on a board for all to review. Once reviewed and discussed, members can decide which concerns are potential disasters and ways to handle it.

Regardless of the crisis, there are a few steps that should be developed in a crisis communications plan and followed. Those steps include:

  • Identifying your crisis communications team
  • Develop a 24/7 call down list of all members of the team
  • Conduct a crisis assessment
  • Identify audiences (stakeholders, media, etc.)
  • Develop partnerships / relationships
  • Identify and train key spokespersons
  • Develop your crisis management messages or talking points
Once the plan has been written and approved, there is a 9-step Crisis Cycle that may be helpful:

  1. Verify the situation
  2. Conduct notification
  3. Activate the crisis plan
  4. Organize assignments
  5. Prepare information and obtain approvals
  6. Release information to media, public and partners through arranged channels
  7. Obtain feedback and conduct crisis evaluation
  8. Conduct public education
  9. Monitor events
The most important communications advice during a crisis is to be honest at all times and provide the media with constant updates, even if there is no information available. Otherwise the media may assume that you are hiding something.

Can you think of an organization or celebrity who displayed a great crisis plan? Can you think of those who displayed horrible plans? Ask yourself; did Paula Deen have a communications plan? How about the City of New Orleans during hurricane Katrina? Remember "Failing to Plan is a Plan for Failure".

For more information or assistance with your crisis management plan, contact us at http://promotionswest.com.