In a crisis situation, speed of the operational response and clarity of initial communications, both internal and external, are essential.
A Crisis Preparedness Plan provides a structure and process that coordinates all levels of the organization and puts the company back on the path to full recovery as quickly as possible. Here are six rules of thumb for a successful crisis plan:
1. Integrate the plan internally — and externally
Successful plans coordinate a company’s operations, its legal and communications functions. But the plan must also coordinate its response with external organizations including police, fire department, EMS as well as with your contract workers or any other organization with whom you work. They could very well be part of the crisis.
2. Keep it simple
Complexity harms a plan’s effectiveness. You can stream line your plan with tools such as checklists and various document templates.
3. Categorize the severity of the crisis
Not all crises have equal impacts, so developing a method for gauging severity is important so that the crisis response is proportional. You don’t want to under- or over-respond. Each organization will need to have its own metrics, such as the number of customers affected or the amount of money at risk from the crisis for assigning, say, a code yellow, orange or red.
4. Identify the most likely and most damaging crisis scenarios and plan for them
– with defined objectives, messaging, pre-written documents, etc. for each scenario.
5. Have prior approvals for “boiler plate” documents before a crisis hits.
A crisis team should be gaining approvals only for communications relating to the crisis at hand, not for materials that could have been vetted months in advance.
6. Conduct crisis simulation exercises.
Crisis plans must be tested and assessed one or two times each year through crisis simulation exercises.
David Kalson is an expert in issues and crisis management. He has more than 25 years experience providing strategic communications counsel, on-the-ground assistance and highly targeted media relations and “new media” programs to manage issues and crises as well as reputation enhancement for both profit and not-for-profit organizations. Business sectors he has counseled include energy, food and beverage, financial services, healthcare, consumer products and technology. He has designed and implemented communication / media relations programs, often emphasizing Web-based strategies, to address issues including data security breaches, environmental accidents, product recalls, financial problems, high-profile lawsuits, corporate governance issues, criminal behavior, attacks by opposition groups, government/regulatory challenges, competitive challenges and labor disputes. Companies he has counseled in relation to crisis drills, plans and crisis management include Cargill, Dunkin’ Brands, Cadbury Schweppes, Staples, Entergy, Eli Lilly, Canaport LNG and the American Automobile Association (AAA)