You have insurance for your car, your home, and the physical presence of your business. But do you have one for your reputation? That’s what a crisis plan is – insurance that you will weather a business storm. And, just like other types of insurance, the price of being prepared is far less than the cost of damage to your reputation and your business. No matter who develops it for you, you need to understand what goes into a successful crisis plan.
6 Key Elements of Your Crisis Plan
A Crisis Communications Team – You can’t do this alone. To have a successful plan, you need the perspectives of various members of your business tribe: the CEO, your marketing director, a public relations practitioner, and legal counsel. Depending upon the type of crisis, you will need to include people from the appropriate areas – IT, sales, finance, safety, for example.
Your Spokesperson – No matter how many on the team, all the news you put out must come from one person. Moreover, you need to train that person on how to respond. Don’t give yourself another black eye by responding poorly. (Recently, Sony’s CEO came off a bit snarky and defensive when discussing the hacking of millions of credit card numbers from it’s Entertainment System.)
Your audiences – The nature of the crisis will determine who you need to inform. These will likely include customers and employees, and maybe vendors, partners, and law enforcement, but always the media. You will also need to develop a system for communicating with these audiences.
Key message – Every time you speak to the media, you need to present key messages that you have developed, but this becomes critical in a crisis. In addition to presenting the facts, these ensure that you get your most important points across.
Practice, practice, practice – Make a list of the most likely crises that could affect your business, develop the response parameters for each one and then practice. Then practice some more. Train your spokesperson. Prep the relevant team members and identify the types of information you will need to gather.
Timing – You want to get out in front of the crisis, but contact your audiences before you have all the salient facts and you’ll raise more questions and look uninformed. Wait too long and you will appear unprepared and potentially leave a vacuum for others to fill with information.
Rarely will the crisis itself sink your business ship. It’s your response to the incident that will determine if your business emerges with its reputation and its bottom line intact.
Next time: The special world of cyber security crises.