Don’t Panic: Use This Checklist For Containing a Crisis Situation

For organizations mired in a crisis, having a plan, swift stakeholder communications and active reputation management are crucial to help mitigate controversy. David Kalson, CEO of Ricochet PR and 20-year crisis-management veteran, recommends an organization use this checklist to work through a bad situation:

  • Draft a team. Assemble a crisis response team with the CEO as the ultimate decision maker and choose your spokesperson(s). Ensure that operations and communications are closely coordinated by including both operational managers as well as communications managers on the team. Also include legal experts and subject-matter experts, e.g., if the crisis is an IT security breach, the head of IT must be on the team.
  • Categorize the seriousness. How many people are victims, real or perceived? Is the media covering it? Which media? Some are more influential, hence consequential than others. Can the crisis be contained at a local facility or does it impugn the entire corporation, nationally or globally?
  • “Tell it first and tell it fast” to audiences affected by the crisis. Make your organization the authoritative informational resource on the crisis, or else someone else will take that role from you. Tactics could include an apology to victims; Web site content; op-eds; remuneration to victims; ads; regulatory filings; legal actions; etc.
  • Focus Internally. Make your employees a primary audience so they are equipped to carry your crisis-related messages to customers and into the community while they maintain their productivity and morale.
  • Break out the influencers: Whenever possible, use respected third-party experts to tell your story during a crisis.
  • Be Media Savvy: Use media/presentation training during a crisis and rehearse before going before the media or groups.
  • Rule No. 1: Empathize (be human) to victims, real or per- ceived. They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. 

PR News subscribers can find more crisis management strategies in the case study: "Transparency and Proactive PR Create a Viable Lifeline for a LGBTQ Health Center Crisis."