Business Continuity and Crisis Preparedness
- Al Czarnecki APR, FCPRS
Business continuity is intimately tied to reputation. Who you are in the minds of your customers speaks to them when they buy.
A crisis offers several elements of a great story:
So if your organization is involved in a crisis, you can expect media calls.
- Conflict or struggle
- Characters in a complex setting
- An outcome that matters
Journalists work to deadline. A media query regarding a crisis amounts to a snap quiz that will be published for all to see.
If you have been following issues and doing your homework, if you are competent and ethical and transparent, you will likely do well. But being prepared to communicate during a crisis should involve your entire senior management team.
A team interacts and is more than the sum of its parts. People understand their roles. They anticipate and play off one another. They give support and resources as a situation unfolds. Among those involved in crisis response are: your CEO, your business continuity, human resources, information technology, and public relations managers - plus department heads and facilities managers.
Information resources take time to prepare. Some provide useful background for any situation and can be prepared in advance. Others are issue-specific background documents that can be readily available if they are listed, annotated and indexed. This leaves the half hour you might have to respond to a media query for gathering accurate information on the immediate situation.
When the puck drops, every player follows a plan to be in the best position to work towards a goal. Process - who does what and when - connects roles and resources and puts them to best effect. Timeliness and urgency are important. Your full team needs to be implementing its plan within ten minutes of a media call.
The most effective organizations are values-driven. A crisis situation often involves uncertainty and the need to improvise. A clear and commonly understood set of corporate principles empowers people to "do the right thing." In a fast-changing situation, there's seldom time to dig through a three-inch binder, and delays can incur consequences.
Roles, resources, processes, and principles don't just happen by themselves. They come by putting crisis communications on the C-suite agenda for consideration and development.
One of the most effective vehicles for adult learning is discussion. Working through roles, resources, processes and principles takes time. But people will understand what they expect of each other. Useful resources will be in place. Everyone will know the who-what-when. They will be clear on important values. This will all be internalized: your senior managers will "just know it."
In the event of a crisis, your response will reflect the work of an agile and effective team. And this can add value to your brand.
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:
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