From Chernobyl to Three Mile Island, most of us are familiar with
crisis situations. We can probably list situations that have occurred
in our own cities or communities. Preventive measures are the best
way to avoid crises, but sometimes they occur unforeseen. Fires
and accidents, plant closings and layoffs, and environmental damage
are only a few of the situations that companies are forced to deal
with, often with little notice. Even problems on a smaller scale
can have a detrimental effect on an organization, its employees,
and the community.
Being prepared for a crisis is second best only to avoiding one
altogether. No matter what the situation or size of the crisis,
a crisis communications plan is vital. Planning may make the difference
between success and failure. I consulted with Al Czarnecki, a crisis
communications specialist; here is his list on how to prepare for
Crisis Communications - Readiness Checklist
These ten items should be in place PRIOR to a crisis situation.
This is of great help in maintaining poise and being able to concentrate
on your top priority, the crisis response plan.
1. Public relations policy and procedures.
A statement of mandate, values, program, leadership.
2. Crisis communications action plan.
Key people, roles, action sequences, scenarios.
3. 'Big Picture' information piece on every major program.
This could be your annual report.
4. 'Window' information piece on every major program.
Content and being up-to-date is most important. Can be kept as text
files and printed on special masthead.
5. Reference files on potential crisis situations.
Minutes, reports, clippings - indexed and portable.
6. Key person list.
Work and home phone numbers, one page job summary and one page bio
- board, senior management, senior person at every physical location
- indexed and portable.
7. Designated spokesperson(s).
Establish default assignments prior to a crisis. Arrange for everyone
to have some public speaking experience. These people and your public
relations counsel should know each other.
8. Designated media coordination.
This function should be established as credible and helpful with
BOTH your staff and the media prior to a crisis. Trust is an outstanding
asset in the midst of mayhem.
9. Media directory or detailed list.
Bowdens, Matthews, or your own contact database. You should have
a concise list of the major media and your public relations counsel
at home with your key spokespeople.
10. Media contact log.
You can have a dozen or more newspapers and radio and television
stations on the go at one time. Keep a separate tracking sheet for
every journalist/story. Know who contacted you, when, about what,
how to contact them, what their deadline is, what you promised,
who you've delegated to, when they're due to get back to you, whether
you need to follow up.
Al Czarnecki is an accredited public relations professional
with 30 years experience. You can find tips and resources on public
relations and social marketing at his website: http://topstory.ca
Crisis by Any Other Name
and Thriving in a Crisis
Times of Crisis