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Friday, March 18, 2011

Proper Planning is the Key to Crisis Communications

The current spate of international and domestic crises is a stark reminder to all professional communicators: in Crisis Response there is no substitute for preparedness.

An enterprise paralyzed by a devastating earthquake or tsunami. Employees trapped in a violent revolution abroad. An entire sector such as Nuclear Energy under scrutiny after a plant disaster. Economic hardship to a community from a lockout or strike. A fraud investigation involving your organization. An IT security breach resulting in leaked sensitive data or embarrassing documents. In any such case proper crisis communications planning can be the difference between a glancing blow and a crippling punch to your organization’s reputation and operations.

Some crisis communications preparedness tips CommCore shares with clients:

• Have a crisis communications plan in place and update it more frequently than you used to. Know how to access it 24/7 on-site and remotely; your headquarters may be inaccessible, compromised, or severely damaged.

• Conduct crisis communications plan audits as needed. We recommend this review must be at least once a year. Is your plan still relevant? Does it need updating?

• Appoint a designated crisis communications team representing all relevant sectors of the enterprise (corporate and product/service division leadership, internal and external stakeholder communications, media relations, IT, security, HR, legal counsel, etc.)

• Establish clear lines for decision making and authority. Crises don’t happen on a schedule; they can occur when key crisis team members are unavailable. In their absence know who has authority to do what in the Golden Hour after a crisis is declared.

• Conduct regular simulations involving both disaster response and reputation management.

• Identify, establish and maintain key internal and external stakeholder and media relationships on an ongoing basis BEFORE a crisis strikes. Trust and familiarity are key ingredients of successful crisis communications. If I already know you, I’ll be more likely to believe you when you need me to.

• Have template "dark" websites for any contingency ready for launch in the event of a crisis. The internet is where most people go to find out what's going on.

Most important of all, have a protocol in place to determine at the outset if a reported problem is a fixable emergency to be dealt with transparently and quickly, or a crisis that threatens to damage the enterprise or brand that must be addressed quickly and publicly.

Does your organization have an active, updated crisis plan? Do your clients have one?

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