Plan to keep cool in a crisis


You’ve likely already experienced the real truth that panic isn’t the best stimulus for sound communications strategizing. To the contrary, the time to start preparing for a crisis is well before your organization is in crisis mode. When a crisis does hit, you’ll handle it with infinitely more calm and confidence if you’ve already developed a corporate crisis communications plan and have prepared a crisis communications manual that defines processes and responsibilities, and provides contact lists and communications document templates.

And the level-headed planning shouldn’t stop, of course, even when the alarm bells of crisis are ringing. Managing a crisis calls for getting sound corporate messages defined and communicating those messages effectively. And that, in turn, requires that the right level heads are operating on both those fronts. Three distinct crisis management roles must be filled:

  1. Designated assessors (one or more) are responsible for evaluating the business‐interruption impact of a crisis and providing recommendations to the crisis management team. They could be drawn from human resources, operations, customer service, legal, communications or some other function. In some cases they may be able to analyze and resolve a crisis on their own, especially if it’s contained within their own departments and they merely have to report on it to complete the process. Otherwise, they must escalate the response.
  2. A crisis management team is made up of one or more senior executives whose role is to receive the recommendations of the assessors, approve a response plan, and direct its implementation. Team members should have broad organizational well‐being as their key consideration; this is not time for internal turf battles.
  3. Communicators (one or more) should be designated to communicate internally and externally if necessary.

It’s possible that the same person(s) might fill more than one of these roles, depending on your organization and the nature of the crisis. However you end up assigning your crisis-management hats, be sure that those hat-wearers and their responsibilities have been clearly designated. It’ll make a world of difference to your ability to communicate effectively when it counts.

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