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This is Part Two of 'Why Corporate Reputation Matters.' View the first post in this series here.
Planning situations instead of decisions
In the old days, crisis communications plans were filled with “if this, then that” guidance. However, in today’s fast-paced world, it’s nearly impossible to predict the specific crisis that will affect your company and if your plan is written only for certain situations, it’s likely to be useless when you need it. Instead, effective crisis plans define the process for making decisions and taking actions during each stage of a crisis. Those processes are defined based on the organization’s primary vulnerabilities and are often tailored to crises of varying severity — for example, the process for responding to an incident that entails loss of life is very different from a data security breach — but the fundamentals remain the same and good plans help you navigate them effectively.
Overlapping and incomplete response teams
Industrial organizations are required to have an ERP— Emergency Response Plan — that clearly outlines who should do what during an incident to secure the safety of personnel and address the emergency. However, is the commander identified in the ERP the same as the lead for crisis communications response? If so, you have a problem because one person cannot be primarily responsible for both putting out the fire and leading the public response. Organizations must understand the many different responsibilities a team member might play and ensure no one individual is overloaded during a critical situation.
In addition, do you have enough depth on your crisis communications team? This is not just a job for your head of communications or investor relations. Your team needs to include someone who can facilitate speedy legal approvals; an HR representative who can assist with employee communications; someone with the passwords and know-how to manage your website and social media accounts; and more. Essentially, for every stakeholder your organization has, you should have a representative on the crisis communications team. In addition, you should have back-up team members identified when you realize someone is unavailable (on vacation or maternity leave, for example) when a crisis occurs.
Slow decisions and review cycles
Speaking of speedy turnarounds on legal reviews, the “business as usual” pace for making decisions and approving communications during a crisis will cause your message to be left in the dust in today’s 24-hour news cycle. Organizations should have an expedited means for deciding when and how to issue communications during a crisis as well as facilitating necessary approvals to ensure your organization can respond as quickly as the public needs in order to remain in control of your message.
To speak with Pierpont’s crisis communications specialists, contact us here.