- June 2008 (1)
- Blog (1)
In the wake of the ongoing war on terror and heightened awareness of possible attacks, savvy companies and government organizations are reviewing their crisis communications plans and putting Public Information Centers (PICs) in place. Their reasons are clear:
Where Do You Start?
Your priority and top-level goal is to prevent or minimize a crisis situation before it escalates. There are key steps to preventing or minimizing a crisis:
An effective crisis communications plan will provide the processes to help you anticipate challenges, recognize your vulnerabilities, and evaluate and assess potentially damaging scenarios. It provides the tools to thoughtfully define the parameters of a crisis - what's the worst news that could come out of a possible scenario - and the best way to prevent and/or manage such a scenario.
Key Steps for Success
Review the roles of each member of your staff and determine, by their current roles, who should serve on the crisis communications team.
Conduct an intense strategy session with the appointed crisis communications team. In this session, the leadership will survey and discuss the organization’s public relations and media structure, identify strengths and weakness of the structure and the organization’s overall crisis communications requirements.
Evaluate your written crisis communications plan and update it based on the information collected from the strategy session.
Brainstorm, be creative, and think in terms of what tools help deliver an important message quickly and directly to the different types of audiences you serve.
The team should designate one key spokesperson and two alternates. These 3 spokespeople need intensive media training on a fairly regular basis to ensure their skills are sharp. We recommend media training every 6 months.
This is the most crucial step. This broad plan provides the framework, so that everyone is on board with what must be done immediately in the face of a crisis to move forward. From this broad plan, in a crisis situation, a crisis-specific plan can be created swiftly and with confidence, so that the PIC can swing into action quickly to minimize damage and reassure the public, while also protecting sensitive sources. The comprehensive crisis communications plan will include guidelines such as:
As part of the PIC's responsibilities, procedures should be defined regarding processes to investigate the crisis and gather necessary details and information; how the PIC will work with other agencies and organizations that might be involved; and how media requests will be handled. It is always important to be responsive to media requests; during a crisis, this responsiveness becomes even more crucial - we recommend that all media contacts are responded to within a maximum window of two hours, to demonstrate that the PIC is responsive, to calm panic, and to ensure a receptive audience.
This section of the plan details a range of marketing tools that might be implemented in a crisis, complete with rationale regarding when a specific tool is most valuable, and information on implementation. The marketing tools could include, but are not limited to the following:
Media training for the key spokespeople is a vital element of an effective crisis communications effort. We recommend media training every six months, to ensure the spokespeople keep their skills sharp and keep the messaging fresh.
Once an effective crisis communications plan is in place, it is wise to test the broad aspects of the plan, at least once a year.
As our world has changed, so, too, must our arsenal of expertise. An effective crisis communications plan provides your professionals with the blueprint to navigate rough waters effectively, to minimize panic, reassure your audiences, and protect sensitive sources. A delicate balancing act - but one Public Affairs and Public Relations Professionals must engage in more and more frequently. Planning and preparedness help to ensure greater success.
Sandy Evans Levine is president of Advice Unlimited, a public relations/marketing firm that works with high tech companies who sell to the government, and with the government directly. Ms. Levine holds Top Secret clearance within the Intelligence Community. Founding Advice Unlimited in 1983, Ms. Levine, formerly a journalist, and her team of media relations experts have extensive experience in media crisis management and crisis communications for companies and government organizations. She brings an organized approach to dealing with problem situations, focusing on the ability to turn bad news into opportunity. For more information visit www.adviceunlimited.net or email firstname.lastname@example.org.