When last have you updated your crisis management manuals and protocols?
Does your protocols take into account latest technologies such as Twitter, Blogging, RSS, mobile phone bulk messaging systems and camera phones?
Maybe it is time to revisit your plan!
1. Take a close look at all the other plans in the company – Emergency Response, Health & Safety, Disaster Recovery, Security & Business Continuity plans. Each of these have communication components which you may want to incorporate in your overall plan.
2. Take a close look at definitions. The words transparency, disclosure and public opinion needs to be carefully defined and brainstormed. For instance, transparency is affected by close periods(share trading), laws and regulations and stakeholders perceptions.
3. Compare your Crisis Communication plan to best practice when it comes to strategic communications planning. Some tips:
- Who are your target audiences? Writing a Crisis Plan is a Strategic Communications planning exercise.
- My advice would be to proceed as follows:
- Diagnose the current state of communication including the key messages and main targets /stakeholder groups to be clearly defined. With other words who needs to know what? What do they know already, etc?
- Identify key stakeholders or your target audience. Segment key stakeholders grouping into directors, senior management, employees, etc.
- Identify contact points i.e. best points or places to reach your target audience.
- Develop communication strategy – now only do you decide on the methods and media to use.
- Identify communication objectives for each target audience/stakeholder.
- Select media best positioned to deliver the message. Take a look at both basic methods as well as Web 2.0 technologies.
- Develop message strategy for each target audience (stakeholder).
- Decide on implementation strategy (Tactics).
- Compile a Communication- Strategy Matrix.
- Do a Budget
- Implement & Deliver messages
- Monitor, evaluate and adjust communication program as necessary
For me the biggest problem occurs when people immediately think of the tools to communicate with. By thinking through this process you will include measurement and delivery evaluation techniques, therefore ensuring impact of message and return on investment.
4. Here is an extract of a questionnaire that I use in my 3 day Reputation Protection & Crisis Response Master Classes to prompt delegates thinking about their plans. Work through this as well.
Crises Communication Management Questionnaire Extract
1. Do you (your organisation) have a clearly defined crises management plan in place?
2. Have you made a “worst case list” recently of what could happen to your organisation?
3. Have you a written plan in place, up to date and circulated and accepted by all stakeholders?
4. Have you conducted a dry run of the preparedness of your plan?
5. How long will it take you to enact your plan, from the moment a crises takes place?
6. Does your plan contain a plan of action for what would happen if an Aids infected employee turned up in the cafeteria and most employees refused to come to work?
7. Have you appointed spokespersons that will communicate with all stakeholders if a crisis should occur?
8. Have you arranged and got approval for CEO’s actions and statements in an emergency?
9. Have you assigned organisation spokesmen and alternatives on a 24 –hour, 7 –day duty (Until done)?
10. Have you benchmarked your emergency procedures versus the rest of competitors in your industry?
11. Have you had your spokespersons trained in media interviews and other communication techniques?
12. Have you prepared alternate plans, with added specifications for each category (The plan for an explosion is not the same as that of a wildcat strike)?
13. Have you minimum legally complied with all the necessary legislation that can impact on the organisation in time of crises? Acts such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act, etc.
14. Have you clearly defined and identified the circumstances that deserve the label of disaster, emergency or catastrophe?
15. Have you assigned crises designation decisions to a specific person or group of persons?
16. Has these people received specific and adequate training so that they will know what to do?
17. Have you created a policy manual, a how-to-manual on developing and implementing a crisis communication plan and circulated it to all concerned, and have they verified their understanding of the contents?
18. Have you determined the competencies needed to communicate effectively in a crisis e.g. Public speaking, meeting skills, press conference question handling, writing skills and planning strategies
If you answered yes for every question, congratulate yourself. If you answered no, your organisation is at risk of damaging its good reputation through lack of preparedness for unplanned visibility caused by potential crises. Do something about it. After all, Noah built the Ark, before it rained.