By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC
Two of the most popular crisis communication searches on Google are for these questions:
- How to Write a Crisis Communications Plan?
- Do I need a Crisis Communication Plan?
As I sit writing this, I also have an expert eye on the television, where a real crisis is playing out. A massive explosion at an industrial facility has rocked a community and there is no official statement from the company after more than four hours.
Yes, every company needs a crisis communications plan.
Take this quick test:
- Could a workplace shooting happen where you work?
- Could an executive be accused of sexual harassment?
- Could someone be killed or injured in the workplace?
- Could a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane, earthquake or snow storm affect your operations, your employees, and/or your customers?
If you answered yes to any one of the above questions, you need a crisis communication plan. Chances are, you answered yes to all four questions. You need a crisis communication plan.
This is part three or our New Year’s series. Today we look at the third step out of the five steps to effective crisis communications.
Step 3: Pre-Written News Releases
For every vulnerability discovered in your Vulnerability Assessment that we discussed in Step 1 two weeks ago, you should write a pre-written news release. When writing a crisis communication plan for my clients, each organization is given an immediate library of 100 pre-written news releases from my personal library of news releases.
Last week in Step 2: Write Your Crisis Communications Plan, we discussed the importance of being specific in your instructions. One of those should be that within one hour or less of the onset of a crisis going public, your organization should issue a statement to the media, your employees, and other key stakeholders. The secret to fast communications is to have a library of pre-written news releases.
Your Pain, Problem & Predicament
At most organizations, when a situation ignites into a crisis, these things consistently happen:
- Everyone is consumed by the “fog of war.”
- Someone sits at a computer, opens a blank Word Document, and they begin to write a news release or statement.
- After 30 minutes to an hour, the writer presents the statement to a group of executives.
- The executives fight over the language and debate commas. This often goes on for up to an hour.
- The writer crafts draft two, based on the feedback.
- A second review happens with more changes.
- A final statement is drafted, approved, and released.
- On average, three and a half hours have passed.
- While the statement was being written, the media have been speculating, employees have been engaged in rumor sharing, social media has turned public opinion against your organization, and your organization’s revenue, reputation and brand have taken a hit.
Stop being a part of the same vicious cycle we have witnessed since the dawn of the industrial age.
Start at the beginning of this year to formulate and execute a system that can sustain your organization for decades to come. Start implementing the five steps to effective crisis communications.
Begin now. Today could be the day you have a crisis.
Set dates on your calendar now for when you plan to implement each of the five steps of effective crisis communications.
Your goal should be to do the hard work on a clear, sunny day, so that you are not in a panic of indecision on your worst day.
When you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
When you fail, prepare to see damage to your organization’s revenue, reputation, and brand.
Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”
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