The Crisis Plan Cheat Sheet

Plan for Crises Like a Basketball Coach

While a detailed “checklist-style” crisis plan can seem comforting, communicators are much better served emulating an agile, well-prepared basketball team. Take some of these steps to develop crisis resources, increase flexibility and hone core skills:

✔  Ditch the plan and opt for a process. If you can quickly assemble your key decision-makers and arm them with the tools they need to decide, act and communicate, you will be prepared to respond to almost any type of crisis.

✔  Practice makes perfect (or at least better). Once you have a crisis process, key contacts and some tools in place, there is no substitute for practicing your response.

✔  Cultivate relationships with partners and the community. In a crisis situation, nothing adds credibility to your messaging like support from your customers, suppliers and other partners.

✔  Build rapport with functional peers. To help avoid friction with functional peers (legal, HR, security) in your organization during the heat of a crisis, take time to establish a relationship with each of them.

✔  Sharpen your spokespeople. High-stress situations are amplifiers—they bring out the best in skilled communicators and the worst in those that are unprepared. Make sure you help your spokespeople stay sharp with periodic public speaking engagements and on-camera interviews.

The Fundamentals of a Crisis Plan

If you are creating a crisis communication plan for the first time, start out with a binder that has five tabbed sections:

Section 1: Contact lists

Section 2: Company disaster information

Section 3: Communicating with the media

Section 4: Details

Section 5: Contingencies

Crisis Communication Plan Check List

Every plan must have:

✔  A list the primary contact for media calls.

✔  A phone list of key personnel and all contact numbers including home, cell and work lines.

✔  A listing of all company locations, the manager in charge at each location and all contact 

✔  A copy of the company disaster plan, including phone numbers and location of all emergency 
vendors including emergency power, emergency clean up and emergency supplies.

✔  Organization charts, maps and lists of divisions, subsidiaries and major capital assets.

Damage Control: Don’t Go from Bad to Worse

Even the most seasoned executive can rely on the following tips to avoid making an issue worse after something has gone wrong:

✔ Apologize. Even if it’s not your fault.

✔ Take immediate action.

✔ Be sincere.

✔ Respond where it happened.

✔ Commit to an investigation.

✔ Remedy the situation.

Identify Potential Triggering Events

Preparing for a crisis begins with pulling a team together representing the areas most likely to be affected. Creating the process starts by developing a series of potential scenarios. Questions to ask include:

  • What industry specific events could occur?
  • Do any of your senior managers have potential health issues?
  • Do any of your senior manager have risky hobbies?
  • What risks does your climate present?
  • What about your Products or services are likely to cause public controversy?

Crisis Messaging

You need to be certain that messages for any scenario follow these principles:

✔ Be candid.

✔ Be truthful.

✔ Be timely.

✔ Never lie.

✔ Never speculate.

Phew, It’s Over. Now What?

Some of the most important aspects of crisis management occur after the crisis is over. Here are a few tips to protect your reputation post crisis.

✔ Measure your success. Every crisis should start with an end game in mind. What were you goals—to contain the news, protect key brand messages, maintain good relations with local communities?

✔ Listen. Ongoing monitoring of your key audiences to understand their concerns, issues or pain points can not only serve as an early warning system for a potential crisis, but also they can help you to evaluate how well your organization has answered its concerns post-crisis.

✔ Never forget. Because the Internet won’t. Any negative news about your organization has the potential to be rehashed weeks, months or years later.

How to Tell the Truth Well

Here are some steps that will make the most out of a bad situation:

1. Act with reason, not emotion.

2. Show genuine empathy for those harmed.

3. Find out all the facts.

4. Get ahead of the story.

5. Listen actively.

6. Be your own media outlet.

7. Seek professional advice.

8. Do the right thing.

First Responders: What to Do after a Twitter Hack

Even state-of-the-art security measures aren’t enough to provide total protection. The plan should emphasize the following strategic imperatives:

1. Contact Twitter to pull the page down.

2. Ensure no other social media properties have been compromised.

3. Change all passwords.

4. Address and the hacking and correct misinformation.

5. Don’t let the hacking be the story.