By Gerard Braud
The pretty stuff always gets more attention than the ugly stuff. Preparing for media interviews and crisis communications is not as sexy as a newsletter or brochure. But when “it” hits the fan, will your customers, employees, and the media be remembering your great graphics? Or will they form their opinion of your company based on dumb things said by a spokesperson or horrific images of your crisis?
Excuses are easy to come by for why these three things won’t get done before the end of the year. “It’s not in our budget” is the most common. Here’s a secret: Never take a “No” earlier in the year as a “No” at the end of the year. As sales, revenues, and the economy get better, most companies are seeing training budgets improve. Ask again. You may get a firm yes for this year. Remember: your company will spend far more on a holiday party than they will on any or all of these three tasks.
The second most popular excuse is, “We can’t get on everyone’s calendar.” Here’s a secret: Ask everyone involved if they have time on their calendar to play in a charity golf game. You will be amazed at how many people suddenly have an open day.
In no particular order I’ll say this about each:
A crisis communications drill is the absolute best way to test everyone in your organization to see exactly how well (or how poorly) they will perform in a crisis. You get to test your crisis communications plan (if you have one), and your spokespeople. You will discover who on your leadership team has true leadership skills when “it” hits the fan and who will create constant roadblocks and impediments to success in both the drill and a real event.
Media training should be treated like a sport, with the understanding that regular practice is the key to being good. Every potential spokesperson should go through a rigorous initial media training class, then each year after that go through a refresher course. Too many executives think of media training as a bucket list item, which they only have to do once in their lives. Anyone who believes that may actually die at the podium when you need them the most. By the way, a crisis communications drill is a great time to realistically test your spokespeople. During and following a drill, many potential spokespeople realize that they are perhaps not as prepared as they should be. A little humility in a drill goes a long way toward instilling in people the concept of an annual media training refresher course.
Crisis communications plans have never been more of a necessity than they are now, in large part because of how a crisis now plays out in social media. Any crisis communications plan must equip you to communicate quickly through multiple means, including news conferences, web postings, emails to employees, and updates on social media. Yet many crisis communications plans really cannot help you achieve these goals because they were written with flaws from the beginning and because they haven’t been updated.
The biggest flaw with most plans is that they state only standard operating procedures. If your plan is only 6-20 pages long, chances are you need a major overhaul. I’m standing by to get the right plan in your hands through an intense two-day writing workshop that delivers to you a plan that is so thorough that nothing is forgotten, yet so simple to execute that anyone who can read execute it flawlessly. The plan is also ultra fast to use, because it contains a huge library of pre-written news releases that can be approved by your leadership on a clear sunny day, preventing time consuming delays on your darkest day.
If you are wondering if your plan is up to the task, you can always call me for a free review of your plan.
Ultimately, all three of these end-of-the-year tasks allow you to test your people and your plans on a clear sunny day, so you can perform your best on your darkest day.