May 13, 2013 | By Alexander Kippen |
At the moment your crisis hits most of your work is done. If not, you have little room to maneuver. In other words, your maneuver time is now. A few thoughts to consider …
- At the moment of impact, what information can you release to employees, investors, news reporters and anyone else who wants it? Keep in mind that at the moment of impact you will not likely have much in the way of facts concerning the crisis itself. Whether it’s a case of sexual harassment or fire, the facts usually take time to confirm. What you can build now are fact-sheets containing publicly releasable information on subjects like – the number of workers you employ, the locations of your facilities, the record of your safety or fire inspections to-date etc. This sort of basic information can be useful, especially to reporters while you gather the facts of the crisis. It will also save you the trouble of assembling basic background information at a time when you have none to spare.
- Who’s in charge? A bigger question than it may appear. Is it the most senior person in the organization or the first person on the scene? Consider designating specific Crisis Captains among your staff. If you’re a hospital maybe you choose captains based on the individual facility or the ward in question. Another possibility – designate Crisis Captains by issue. Let’s say Crisis Captain #1 covers local disasters like fires, explosions, and dangerous weather. #2 might cover violent crimes like sexual assault, rogue gunmen and terrorism. #3 might cover bloodless crisis like cyber attacks, financial chicanery and slander/ liable especially in social media. In other words, instead of a one-crisis-fits all boss, break it down so that your Crisis Captains can become experts in their specific fields of crisis.
- Drill. Lot’s of organizations occasionally stage elaborate and expensive crisis simulations involving multiple parties and consultants – like me – employing dramatic and in some cases over-the-top scenarios. A great idea. But if that’s all, it’s sort of like going to the gym once a year for a two-day workout. Better is to extend your big crisis drill with numerous, smaller drills, the way we drilled for fire alarms in school. Try :30 minute drills at least once a month, surprising the Crisis Captain of your choice with a mock scenario. Also, make sure your drills include nightimes and holidays. You’re crisis plan needs to work as well on New Year’s Eve as it does at 2PM on a Tuesday.
- Finally, who’re you going to call? A central part of your plan is what I call Immediate Contact information that goes well beyond office phone extensions and e-mail addresses. You need to know where your Crisis Captain is at any time, including sick days and vacation. Yes. Crisis by its nature loves off-hours. That means mobile numbers and back-up mobile numbers in case the phone in question is out of range. Make sure you have Immediate Contact information for your Crisis Captain and for his or her team. Then if you fail to reach one, you can quickly reach for the next.
Two concluding notes. Crisis Captains need to be able to act alone, because for any number of reasons, “You” might not be there. In the worst case scenario “You” might be dead. Also, for similar reasons, keep your plan and its contact data in more than one office. The CEO should have it. And if you’re part of a larger organization your director of communications and your human relations team should be able to act and coordinate in case the CEO is unavailable. Who else should have it? In short, build in redundancy. It’s your version of auxiliary power.