Periodically, I offer guest posts by colleagues. Here’s one on crisis communications by Evan Nierman, founder of Red Banyan Group, a public relations and crisis management firm that provides integrated strategic communications counsel to organizations and individuals across a variety of industries.
The famous motto of the Boy Scouts is “be prepared.” It’s good advice for everyone, but especially for companies looking to avoid dealing with a crisis that could damage their reputation and impact the bottom line.
In this day and age, thanks in part to a 24-hour news cycle and the way social media enables stories (especially negative ones) to spread like wildfire, it is more important than ever that organizations be prepared to face the inevitable crisis which could be just around the corner. There is no reason to wait for a full-blown crisis to erupt–by the time trouble strikes it is almost too late.
Clearly, some crises are impossible to forecast. I can recall one past client where the company’s senior executives were blindsided by very naughty personal behavior by the CEO which became instantly public thanks to a spurned wife who was tired of his philandering and drug abuse. In that case, the company was forced to undertake a strategy emphasizing how capable senior managers would shoulder the workload while the CEO was away addressing his personal issues, and assuring shareholders that the impact on the company would be minimal.
Most companies can predict with some degree of accuracy what kind of challenges they might face in the future. Government agencies charged with oversight will inevitably make a mistake somewhere along the line, and most nonprofit organizations will at some point face heavy scrutiny and perhaps strident criticism for how they spend their budgets.
Having a good crisis communications plan in place means that the organization can invest time during a calm period where cooler heads prevail to make well-reasoned, strategic decisions without the intense pressure and time constraints for decision-making that are brought on by a crisis.
Who Should Review Your Crisis PR Plan?
- The person who oversees communications for the organization
- The organization’s top executive
- Legal counsel
- Someone outside the organization with an expertise in crisis PR
For those companies who have not yet developed a crisis plan, having one in place is money well-spent. It can help provide peace of mind to the organization while eliminating the ramp-up time required by crisis PR experts brought in to fight the fire once it is underway.
Companies which already have a plan in place should update it periodically and may want to have it reviewed by experts in order to ensure that it’s as effective and comprehensive as possible. At the end of the day, a crisis communications plan is like a strong insurance policy: you never want to be without it when the day comes that you need it. The bottom line: be prepared.