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When ‘it’ hits the fan, is your company ready?

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September 23, 2022

“It” can happen at any time – Are you prepared? 

From embezzlements and shootings to fatalities and food recalls, we’ve worked with just about every crisis imaginable, and a few that are hard to imagine.

The reality is no two crisis situations are the same, but one thing that is constant is the speed and agility to which companies are able to respond based on whether or not they have a formal crisis communication plan in place or not.

Those with a plan are able to initiate it immediately, and everyone on the team knows their role – meaning they are able to assess the situation and respond quickly to minimize potential damage to their brand.

Companies without a plan are often left flat-footed, struggling to create the appropriate team and messaging to address the problem – oftentimes, addressing issues off-the-cuff and not with the laser precision needed to prevent significant brand damage.

That’s why it’s important to have a thorough crisis communications plan in place prior to a crisis.

It can mean the difference between effectively managing the situation and minimizing the negative impact or muddling through it, all the while further damaging your company’s reputation and financial stability.

That’s especially true in today’s 24/7 communications world.

Without a well-thought-out plan that addresses worst case scenarios, you’re putting your company at unnecessary risk.  
Here are a few elements that could help you get started:
Select a Crisis Communication “Go Team.” This team should include the company’s CEO, a vice president, your public relations person, senior management and the company attorney.Identifying potential crisis situations, including worst case scenarios and preparing for the worst can make situations that don’t rise to that level much more manageable.Establish clear procedures and protocols to follow when a crisis occurs. Include an outline that spells out specific duties and who is responsible for each. Make sure each individual of the “Go Team” knows their role and the roles of others in the event they need to fill in if another team member is unreachable.Identify and train a spokesperson. Having the right person front and center is crucial. It may or may not be the company CEO/president, depending upon the situation. Be sure your spokesperson is someone who can think on their feet.Create clear media policies and procedures and be sure everyone in the company knows what to do if the media contacts them.Identify your target audiences and don’t forget to communicate to your internal audience, including your board or directors, business partners and employees.Prepare sample news releases/media statements. When the crisis is taking place, there is no time to start writing a news release or media statement. Have some basic releases and statements prepared in advance that can be filled in with the specifics of the situation.Compile contact lists for your target audiences. Be sure to include media outlets, vendors, staff, regulators, local officials and others who may need to be contacted. 
One final tip – once your crisis communication plan is developed, review it periodically and update it as needed.

This should be done at a minimum of once a year so you’re prepared if a crisis hits.

It’s also important to designate one person to manage updating the contact information, as it can change frequently, particularly the media.

Having a well-thought-out plan in advance provides peace of mind that your team knows what to do when “it” hits the fan.

Cole Buergi is the vice president of Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

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