It can’t happen to us! Top Tips in a Crisis!

We’ve all heard the quote by American businessman, Alan Lakein, ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’, something that might resonate with all of us.

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about planning, it isn’t really anything to do with the New Year or a new start but to highlight the many issues businesses have in communicating when a crisis happens.

The statistics show that if you’ve a crisis communication plan in place and a crisis rears its ugly head then you are more likely to stay in business than those without a plan.

Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with many crises during my career for several of my clients, from sadly someone losing their life, potential life changing injuries sustained during a high profile event, a major fire to even negative media coverage – all of which have had the potential to impact a clients’ reputation if not dealt with appropriately.

American magnate, Warren Buffet, said, ‘it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minute to ruin. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.’ How true that is for each and every business but it is probably now 18 seconds for a reputation to be ruined, given the many online and social media platforms.

I was asked by a colleague to assist him last month in England on a crisis management exercise. Basically, he was testing a client’s protocols and procedures and he needed someone to test their comms team as well, that’s where I came in.

It was a real privilege to see a global company take time out of their day-to-day operations and look at the repercussions of a potential crisis – in this case the scenario was the company had a disgruntled employee who had released information to a news outlet with a potential data hack in the mix, but it could have been absolutely anything which would have called into question their systems, protocols, procedures and ultimately their communication to their stakeholders and audiences.

It was great fun, but it was also very timely and taken very seriously as everyone from the CEO to the receptionist got involved across two disparate sites.

What were the learning points? The big one was have a crisis communications plan. Test it and test it again. Keep it updated; make sure all the relevant information is just that, relevant, and think through the possible different scenarios and what holding statements or lines to take are needed.

So, what would you do if your computer system went down and the details of your organisation or customers’ bank details were posted over the Internet? What would you do if a life changing injury took place in your manufacturing facility? What would you do if your systems failed and information, in clear breach of the data protection act, went to the wrong people – the list of possibilities is endless!

Crisis communications isn’t for the faint hearted.

It needs experienced, practicable and measured people who know what you should be saying, when you should be saying it, how you should be saying it and to whom. They also need to have intimate details of your company, warts and all, as well as access to the CEO or MD.

No one likes to think about the worst-case scenario or a crisis in their organisation but in all your plans for the 2018, consider the fact; can you afford not to think about it?

So, to give you a little helping hand, here are my top tips in a crisis:

1 Anticipate the crisis
2 Identify your crisis comms team
3 Identify and train spokespersons
4 Establish monitoring systems
5 Identify and know your stakeholders
6 Develop holding statements
7 Assess the crisis situation
8 Finalise and adapt key messages
9 Post crisis report – what did you learn?

And finally, from me, best wishes for 2018 and draft that plan!

– Jackie Logan, Managing Director, NakedPR.