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Final crisis communications handbook


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Final crisis communications handbook

  1. 1. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Written By Charlotte Jewer and Stephen Heckbert This handbook belongs to: _______________________________________________________________________________
  4. 4. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? CSR BRAINSTORMING SATELLITE 92APPENDIXBUDGETARY EVALUATION 93-951.0 Introduction and Handbook Instructions1.1 IntroductionLife is unpredictable -while things might be going according to plan today,tomorrow is another story.A crisis can come in many forms - aprecarious economy, moody Mother Nature,mechanical failure, and human loss or human error, can all present serious complications forany organization at any time. While all of these circumstances are out of anyone’s control, how youhandle the fallout is what will either save or sink the ship.While crisis communications planning has always been on the radar for most organizations, in today’s fast-paced globally connected world, citizens and consumers are more savy, vocal, and in-tune than ever before.There is a demand for transparency and organizations must be prepared to be open and honest with thegeneral public.This handbook is meant to help you and your organization prepare for a storm. In the world of crisiscommunications, preparedness can equal success. It is about building the right team, knowing your audience,creating strategic messages, and guiding the media. Much of this work can be done before a crisis hits, lettingyou act quickly, confidently, and effectively. Consequently,it is how you behave in the first few hours of a crisisthat proves to be critical in minimizing the damage done to your business and most importantly, yourreputation. 4
  5. 5. 1.2 Handbook Instructions and ContractThis handbook can be used as your guide to help you create a comprehensive crisis communications plan foryour organization. It will be your job to be the crisis communications team leader, or CCTL, to take-charge ofcompiling information and completing the templates provided in this handbook. It will be your job to act as theknowledge centre of your crisis communications team, expecting the unexpected.As the CCTL, you must keep a copy of your completed plan both at the office and offsite. It is important to notethat finalized plans also need to be maintained in both electronic and paper formats at each location in order tobe effective.As a primary rule, your crisis communications plan must be kept up-to-date at all times. On a regular basis,when the contact details of CCTmembers change, it is extremely important that you amend your contact list asthese changes occur. (More on building your contact list under Getting Organized.)Additionally, your entire crisis plan must be reviewed on a semi-annual basis – updates on June 15 andDecember 15 are recommended as favourable times.Circumstances are always changing both within andoutside of your organization, and you must be sure that you have accounted for these changes, big and small.It will be your responsibility as the CCTL to make sure that all identified crisis team members have a copy of theplan along with key emergency response partners in the event of a crisis. After all, the documents and detailscontained in your plan will not only help you save your organization’s reputation, but in critical circumstances,it can also save lives.I _______________________________________________, am responsible for filling out the templates in thiscrisis communications handbook in full.I will review my plan on (DATES)__________________________ and__________________________ along with all other CCT members on aregular semi- annual basis, committing tomake necessary changes to the plan as they may occur. 5
  6. 6. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?1.3 Update CalendarWhat documents need to be reviewed on these dates? Contact Lists Backgrounder and Fact Sheets CCT Member Biographies SWOT Analysis Communication Strategies*Templates are provided for each document throughout the handbook. 6
  7. 7. 2.0Getting Organized: Know Who Is On Your Side. Every home, school, business, community centre etc., is strongly advised to have an emergency procedure plan in place. While this type of careful preparation is widely practiced, building a working crisis communications plan should also become a common exercise. Therefore, before any damagingcrisis scenarios come to fruition,is it important to get organized.In order to do so, this section will highlight a list of important documents that must be fully completed and keptin active files. Scouts honour- always “be prepared.” Skills Inventory Crisis Communications TeamRoles (CCT) Team Member Biographies Communications Team Contact List Organizational Flow Chart Communications Flow Chart CCT Telephone Tree Training Schedule Backgrounder and Fact Sheet Stakeholder Satellite Stakeholder Contact Sheets 7
  8. 8. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?2.1Skills InventoryWho do you call when disaster strikes? Answering this question will allow you to build a competent and reliableteam of allies that will work together to stabilize the situation and repair the damage done. When choosingthese individuals, ask yourself what their strengths and weaknesses are both in and out of the workplaceallowing you to build a skills inventory. Who is a strong writer? Who knows how to talk to the media? Who has the ability to think on their feet in creative and intelligent ways? Who knows your organization inside and out?By collecting this type of information from your colleagues, it will be easy for you to compile a team of peoplethat compliment each other and bring new talents to the team. While most of your team members will comefrom a communications background, don’t be afraid to look outside of your department for help.*Use the template on the following page to find three possible candidates for each skill. 8
  9. 9. Skills InventoryRequired Skill/Experience CandidatesStrong writingMedia relations experienceSocial media experienceCreative and strategic thinkerInternal operations knowledgeExternal operations knowledgeHuman resources trainingFinancial expertLegal expertiseTechnical and computer skills 9
  10. 10. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?2.2 Crisis Communications Team Roles (CCT)The size of your team will depend on the size of your organization, however; the following are key roles thatneed to be delegated. Based on the information collected in your skills inventory and upon agreement of eachsuitable candidate, assign the best nominee to each role. Crisis Communications Team Roles Role Name and Current TitleLeaderAssistantSenior AdvisorExecutive LeaderSpokespersonInternal Affairs CoordinatorExternal Affairs CoordinatorMedia Relations OfficerSocial Media SpecialistFinancial OfficerInformation Technology SpecialistHuman Resources Specialist andFamily LiaisonLegal Council 10
  11. 11. 2.3 Team Member BiographiesOnce the members of your CCT have been carefully chosen, you must compile a brief biography on each teammember that covers: Their history with your organization, Their occupational specialties, Why they were chosen for their CCT position, and Any other experience they might have in dealing with a crisis scenario.The media will inevitably be looking for this information when a crisis hits to add a personal angle to theirreports. It is imperative that you create these biographies in preparation for a crisis, as this information will beextremely difficult to gather in an emergency situation. (Including a professional photo for each team memberis an added bonus for reporters.)*Pay special attention to the biography of your executive leader and spokesperson. These people will havedirect contact with the media, therefore; their biographies need to be especially accurate, informative, andsharply written. (See more on this in Media Relations: How to Handle the Mob.) 11
  12. 12. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Sample Team Member BiographiesCCT Leader – Ronald SmithRonald Smith has been with Company A as the head of the public relations department for nine years. Aspecialist in communications planning and brand development, Mr. Smith’s organizational skills and advancedknowledge of Company A’s clientele, have made him the lead of the crisis communications team.Mr. Smith was previously involved in the successful resolution of a product recall in 2005, directing mediarelations and restoring the trust of key stakeholders.Internal Affairs Coordinator – Donna WarrenDonna Warren began working with Company B as a sales manager in 1998. Her superior team managementskills and passion forCompany B’sbrand, propelled Mrs. Warren to the position asoperations officer of CompanyB’s eastern retail department in 2007. Mrs. Warren’s thorough knowledge of the mechanics of Company B’soperations, along with her exceptional interpersonal skills, make her a strong internal affairs coordinator. Mrs.Warren successfully managed her sales team through the regretful downsizing of the eastern retail division in2000 with grace and compassion. 12
  13. 13. Biographies List Leader Assistant Senior Advisor 13
  14. 14. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Executive Leader SpokespersonInternal Affairs Coordinator 14
  15. 15. External Affairs Coordinator Media Relations Officer Social Media Specialist 15
  16. 16. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Financial OfficerHuman Resource Specialist and Family Liaison Information Technology Specialist 16
  17. 17. Legal Council 17
  18. 18. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 2.4Communications Team Contact List Most businesses and organizations are good at keeping track of employee and member contact information. While the human resources department might be the one to keep most of this information organized, it is important for you to keep your own up-to-date record of this information. It is vital to have the details of all your CCT members close at hand, and it is also important to have full contact information for all organization members ready in case of emergency. *This list must also include emergency contact information for your local fire department, police service, and regional hospital services. Your CCT contact list must include the following information: Name CCT Roleor Address Home # Cell# E-mail Date Job Title RevisedJoseph Media Relations 52 Spruce Dr. (613) (613) 01/01/11Brown Ottawa, ON K1S 5P9 234-5787 234-9908Lisa Hill Assistant Team 19 Falls Rd. (613) (613) 05/06/01 Leader Ottawa, ON K5N 7J6 667-4356 667-8327 *Remember to keep both a paper and electronic version of this document at both your onsite crisis communications centre and at an external location. 18
  19. 19. Communications Team Contact ListName CCT Role or Address Home # Contact # E-mail Date Job Title Revised 19
  20. 20. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Name CCT Role or Address Home # Cell # E-mail Date Job Title Revised 20
  21. 21. 2.5OrganizationalFlow Chart Once you have built your CCT, is important that you understand the hierarchical approval process that exists in your organization. Every organization has a chain of command that needs to be respected at all times, including in a time of crisis. While this is expected to alter slightly from normal day-to-day procedures, it is important to know who needs to approve of your messages and finalize details before anything is acted upon. Additionally, it is important to know what path you must follow when communicating information internally to employees, members, families, etc. Organizational ExecutiveBoard of Directors CCT Leader CCT Members Internal Relations Team External Relations Team Media Relations TeamManagement Human Investors/Donors/Members SpokespeopleResourcesInternal Employees Government Contacts Media Contacts Departments Families Clients/Suppliers 21
  22. 22. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 2.6 Communications Flow Chart Along with your organizational flow chart, the direction of communications within your CCT is also necessary to define in preparation for a crisis situation. In order to avoid panic, CCT members must be placed on the communications flow chart in order to identify the order in which decisions are made, how information is disseminated and received, and what channels CCT members must follow in order to reach all members in an organized manner. *The legal councilor and the information technology coordinator need to be directly consulted on a regular and uninhibited basis as the process unfolds. Executive Leader Senior Advisor CCT Leader Legal Council CCT AssistantInformation Technology Coordinator Internal Affairs CoordinatorExternal Affairs CoordinatorHuman Resources Specialist Financial Officer Media Relations Officerand Family LiaisonManagementSpokesperson Social Media Coordinator 22
  23. 23. 2.7CCT Telephone Tree When a crisis happens, time is of the essence - a telephone tree will allow a large number of phone calls to be made in a short period of time. When everyone shares in the responsibility of contacting at least two people, the calling process is completed more rapidly and accurately.As the CCT Leader, your name will be on the top of this list. Build your tree based on a need to know basis –create a hierarchy based on who needs to know what information before someone else in the chain toeffectively communicate your message.Once your name is placed on the far left of the tree, follow the lines across where you will add two new namesand corresponding telephone numbersin each box following your communications chain of command. Bycompleting the telephone tree template provided on the next page, each person will only have to contact twonew people, who each contact two people themselves, and so on, lessening the burden on the team leader.*Your executive leader, or CEO, will have to be informed directly by the team leader, as the information given tothe CEO needs to be as direct and accurate as possible. This person should be at the top of your contact list.To create an interactive version of your telephone tree, use an Excel template. In such a template, each personshould have at most three contactseach. By using simple Excel formulas, members of your telephone tree caneasily be replaced and updated depending on a change of company position or to account for vacationschedules etc. 23
  24. 24. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 24
  25. 25. 2.8 Training ScheduleNow that your CCT has been assembled, it is important to conduct a training exercise in order to get a feel forhow well your team performs and to learn what areas need to be improved. This activity should be scheduledtwice a year, with the same importance as fire drills and evacuation procedures.Additionally, a media training session for your spokesperson and media relations specialist will also need to bescheduled into your annual calendar. A media training specialist will most likely need to be brought in from alocal agency, as this is a highly specialized discipline with training that needs to be conducted by experiencedexperts. 25
  26. 26. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?2.9 Backgrounder and Fact SheetWhen a crisis hits and the media is on your doorstep, it is important to have your facts straight. This includeshaving a finalized organizational backgrounder and fact sheet at your disposal. These documents describe yourorganization, outline your reason for being, and answer any anticipated questions the media or general publicmay have allowing you to be prepared when the heat is on.To create an effective backgrounder you should include: A concise statement on the purpose of your organization and what issues/subjects/areas you cover. A historical overview of your operations along with your current activities. A brief overview of your organization’s structure and key players. Touch upon your community relations initiatives.This document must be accurate and up-to-date and should be reviewed regularly during your scheduled semi-annual meetings. Once finalized, your backgrounder should be included in your news releases sent to the mediaduring a crisis situation. Including this information in your news release will allow you to provide pertinentinformation about your company to the media quickly and accurately.A fact sheet acts much the same way as a backgrounder written in a bullet-style format. A fact sheet allowsyou to offer a reporter a shortcut to the information they need in a hurry. Preparing such a document before acrisis strikes reduces the need for you to personally answer common questions pertaining to your organizationin a time crunch.Simply attach factual points on your organization’s history, operations, products/services, communityrelations activities, key players, etc. to your news releases allowing reporters to virtually cut and pasteimportant points. 26
  27. 27. Backgrounder Template 27
  28. 28. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Factsheet TemplateOrganizational history and headquartersOperations (local, national, international and industry size)Products/servicesCommunity relations initiativesKey players (owners, senior management team) 28
  29. 29. 2.10 Stakeholder SatelliteWho could be affected by a crisis in your organization? This could include any or all of the following groups: Investors Customers/members/donors Employees and union groups Key financial players such as bank officials, local banking representatives, and insurance representatives. Community leaders Government officials (elected and regulatory) Key suppliers/retailers Families of employees Industry partners Affiliated associationsIt is extremely important to identify all stakeholders of your organization before a crisis strikes to avoidoverlooking any key players - neglecting any of these key groups could cause them to lash-out and have anegative impact on your operations. Use this satellite to brainstorm and place your stakeholders in order ofoperational importance from the centre nucleolus outwards. 29
  30. 30. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Stakeholder SatelliteKey Stakeholders 30
  31. 31. 2.11 Stakeholder Contact Sheets The stakeholder satellite is followed by a contact list for each group. Place the key contacts in descending order of importance to your organization. InvestorsName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 31
  32. 32. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Customers/Members/DonorsName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 32
  33. 33. Employees and Union GroupsName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 33
  34. 34. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Financial PlayersName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 34
  35. 35. Community LeadersName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 35
  36. 36. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Government OfficialsName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 36
  37. 37. Key Suppliers/RetailersName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 37
  38. 38. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Families of EmployeesName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 38
  39. 39. Industry PartnersName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 39
  40. 40. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Affiliated AssociationsName Organization Position Relationship Phone E-mail Date Revised 40
  41. 41. 3.0Issues Management: What could possibly go wrong? There are a variety of unforeseen circumstances that could arise at any given time within any type of organization. While most crisis situations are out of anyone’s control, how the crisis is handled will either save or ruin your organization’s reputation. It is important to remember that in today’s business world, the public perception of your organization is one of the most important assets in your portfolio.According to Jo-Anne Polak, former senior vice-president of crisis communications at Hill & Knowlton Ottawa,the very definition of a crisis directly relates to your organization’s image: “A crisis is an event or series ofevents that can severely damage the reputation of an organization and its ability to conduct business.”In order to protect this valuable asset, a crisis situation needs to be handled with great tact. As the premierrule, effective issues management is the best form of crisis prevention. Following through these various stepsof identification will allow you to act proactively.STEP 1: Identify Potential ProblemsSTEP 2: Verify the SituationSTEP 3: Assess the Crisis LevelSTEP 4: Determine the Appropriate Course of Action 41
  42. 42. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?3.1 STEP 1: Identify Potential ProblemsThe ability to be proactive and anticipate potential problems before they arise can greatly reduce the elementof surprise. Therefore, the first step of issues management is to identify potential problems by conducting aSWOT Analysis. By reviewing your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats,you have abetter chance of predicting what issues could possibly arise.Simply list in bullet points the strengths your organization has in your field along with the correspondingweaknesses that are internal to your organization. Then breakdown the opportunities that exist for yourorganization for growth and expansion followed by threats you face from competitors or other external forces.In order to gain additional insight into your organization, practitioners should be actively conducting mediamonitoring activities, consulting both upper and lower level management, studying other competitiveorganizations, and taking the general temperature of your stakeholders.When completed, the weaknesses and threats listed in your SWOT Analysis should highlight potentially damagingscenarios that could be of crisis proportions if left unaddressed. 42
  43. 43. SWOT Analysis StrengthsWeaknessesStrong community reputation Poor knowledge of local officials OpportunitiesThreatsPartnership with local charity Union unrest 43
  44. 44. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?3.2 STEP 2: Verify the SituationWhile acting proactively is important, sometimes a crisis cannot be predicted. The following list of scenarioscould adversely impact operations, financial stability, and the underlying reputation of your organization.Possible crisis situations and scenarios include, but are not limited to: Product/Service/Operation Failures Product recall due to malfunction Product recall due to illness or death Accidents Industrial accident involving injuries Industrial accident involving death Explosions/fires Exposure to harmful substances Power failures Civil Disturbances Civil unrest Community evacuations Strikes and protests Financial Crisis Major company layoffs Plant/branch closures Plummeting stocks Funding cutbacks Natural Disasters Flooding/earthquakes/hurricanes/tornados Major storm damage Top-tier Management Issues Death or illness of management personnel Reputational damage 44
  45. 45. Each scenario will vary in intensity and severity, therefore; the communications practitioner must ask the following questions in all impending situations in order to determine the appropriate course of action:What happened and where?When did this happen?Who is involved?How did it happen?What is currently being done? When collecting this data, it is also important to consider the following criteria in order to confirm the situation is indeed valid: Has the situation been confirmed by a reliable source? Do you have all the facts? Is this an internal or external crisis? Is information consistent from several sources? Is there a clear consensus amongst stakeholders on the seriousness of the situation? What other information do you need to know to put the event into perspective? 45
  46. 46. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?3.3 STEP 3: Assess the Crisis LevelIn order to assess the communications response level, it is important to determine the severity of the situation.A crisis could rock the very foundation of your organization or it could be easily handled internally without anyharm to public perception,allowing you to get back to business as usual.Using the chart below, evaluate the intensity of the crisis using the 4 Level identification system. For Levels 1and 2, the crisis team should plan on ongoing reviews of the situation, but the full crisis plan may not need to beimplemented. For any issues identified as a Level 3 or 4, the crisis team should be alerted immediately andprepare for action.Each level is determined not only by the obvious severity of the situation, but also by the media attentionreceived. However, while it is true that many crisis situations can be handled internally and virtually go “underthe radar” of public awareness, it is always of highest importance to be honest and truthful with all audiencesduring a difficult situation. Attempting to cover-up or underreport matters of public safety will only result inlegal battles, a loss of trust, and the erosion of your organization’s reputation.See the chart on the next page for crisis classifications. 46
  47. 47. 47
  48. 48. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?3.4 STEP 4: Determine the Appropriate Course of ActionLevel 1:In a Level 1 scenario, a media relations policy does not need to be activated as the media arevirtually unaware of the current situation as it pertains to your organization. However, if the media does makea call, a breif statement needs to be made to assure the public that the incident is under control.Internal audience members such as the management team and employees should be made aware of the issuethrough the human resources specialist along with information on how the issue is being handled.Stakeholders must be made aware of the situation and informed of what is currently being done to mend theissue and get back to business as usual.Level 2:In a Level 2 scenario, the public is aware of the situation, but no harm has been done to yourorganization’s reputation. The procedure for a Level 1 situation must be followed in such a scenario in additionto media outreach to assure that you and your CCT stay ahead and in control of the story.As the media have now become more active in the pursuit of information, a news release must be issued inorder to give reporters accurate and timely information on the issue.(Templates are provided in MediaRelations: How to Handle the Mob.)Level 3:The intensity of the situation has now mounted to a troubling height in a Level 3 crisisscenario.Public outrage is beginning to mount and stakeholders grow concerned about the health of theirassets.Actions need to be taken to quell public unrest and anger.It is now imperative that at this level, a more forceful media relations plan needs to be put into action. CCTmembers need to be on high alert and are expected to be available at any time.Level 4:At this level of crisis, a major shock to your organization has caused the full attention of all yourinternal and external publics to be fully drawn to the issue at hand.Your CEO must provide a public address of empathy and caring to the media at large to demonstrate sympathyand apologize to the general public. Without such an address, there is no chance of repairing public confidencein your brand without the alienation and further aggravation of certain audiences. 48
  49. 49. 4.0 Communications Planning: Getting the PR Process Right.A crisis has been identified and all of your CCT members have been notified. Now what? It is time to thinktactically, clarify your messages, and build a winning strategy.The nature and severity of the crisis situation that you are facing will dictate whether the crisis is an internalmatter orof public concern, needs immediate attentionor can be handled with ease, garners media attention oris easily kept within your control. In any case, all situations require your team to:STEP 1. Identify Your Target AudienceSTEP 2. Approve Your Goals and ObjectivesSTEP 3. Approve a Strategy and TacticsSTEP 4. Establish Effective Key MessagesSTEP 5. Define the Proper Channels for CommunicationSTEP 6: Review the Final Planning Checklist 49
  50. 50. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?4.1 STEP 1: Identify Your Target AudienceWho needs to receive your message? Is this an internal matter where information needs to be primarilycommunicated to your employees, the families of employees, investors, or organization members, etc.? Or,does your message need to be received largely by the general public reaching groups such as consumers,activists, or your local community through the media? These are the questions that will determine your targetaudience.In some cases this will be a highly defined demographic, in others, your audience could be the entire communityin which you operate, or, in a colossal case, your story could garner unfavourable international media attention– think of the British Petroleum oil spill.Use the template on the next page to examine all of your possible internal and external target audiences anddraw linkages between them. 50
  51. 51. Internal Audiences 51
  52. 52. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 52
  53. 53. External Audiences 53
  54. 54. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Once you have identified your target audiences, get to know them. What methods of communication do they use? What kind of messages do they respond to? You must decipher the best and fastest way to reach these people. In many cases, you will have more than one key audience who need to receive your message. It is important to note that you might have to approach these sub-groups differently, using different channels and tailoring your messages accordingly. Use the following chart to list your target audiences, what is the best means of reaching this particular sub- group, who is the best messenger for this group, and an approximated timeframe of how long it would take for an important message to reach this target audience. Target Audience Contact Sheet Audience Means Messenger TimeframeEmployees Company e-mail Internal Affairs Coordinator Response time may or telephone varyRegional Media Press release, phone Media Relations Officer 0-3 hours Level 3 interview, in-person 0-1 hour Level 4 interview Audience Means Messenger Timeframe 54
  55. 55. 55
  56. 56. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?4.2 STEP 2: Approve Your Goals and ObjectivesYour main goal is to get back to business as usual with as little reputational damage to your organization aspossible. However, depending on the type of crisis scenario, you will also have various other goals to chartalong the way to normalcy. You must ask yourself, what must you achieve by when?Next,your objectives must align with your goals– objectives are the road map for achieving your goals. Anobjective will address the 5Ws of your target goals in a specific and attainable manner.To create valuable objectives, they must be SMART or,SpecificMeasurableAttainableRealisticand Timelimited.By adhering to this criteria, you will be able to successfully measure the success of your communicationscampaign when the crisis is over. This is very important as you need to know if you have indeed met yourobjectives and communicated your messages effectively.A SMART objective will look like the following:Directly alert all retailers in the Eastern sales region via telephone ofan immediate product recall to product numbers S479 to S481 to bereturned to the Cassleman manufacturing plant before September 20,2011.Use the template on the following page to track your goals and corresponding objectives. 56
  57. 57. SMART Objectives Chart Goal Corresponding Objective S M A R TSuccessfully recall damaged Directly alert all retailers in the Easternproducts in the Eastern sales sales region via telephone of an immediateregion without losing retailer product recall to product numbers S479 toconfidence. S481 to be returned to the Cassleman Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes manufacturing plant before September 20, 2011. 57
  58. 58. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?4.3 STEP 3: Approve Your Strategy and TacticsYour strategy is part of the big picture - what approach must your CCT take to get over the mountain and attainyour goals? While your strategy must be based on the situation at hand, all crisis scenarios will require you to: 1. Tell the truth about the situation without compromising private information or matters still under investigation. 2. Minimize damaging media coverage. 3. Uphold the safety of your employees and/or clients/consumers. 4. Stay on message and communicate effectively. 5. Restore trust in your organization and get back to business as usual.By following this line of attack, any crisis scenario will be easier to tackle.The entire communications process starts with telling the truth - be upfront with the media, your employees,your clients, and all concerned publics. Withholding information or trying to cover-up a mishap will only makethe situation worse resulting in a total loss of credibility.Building effective strategies and tactics that will communicate key information in a crisis situation, takescreativity. Use the template provided to brainstorm some strategic concepts and three corresponding tacticsto achieve those ends. Apologize to retailers directly Restore retailer confidence after product recall Provide detailed information on affected products Grant full refunds to retailers 58
  59. 59. Strategy Map 59
  60. 60. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?4.4 STEP 4: Establish Effective Key MessagesAs a communications professional, you should be well aware of what a key message is - the primary thoughtthat you want to leave with your target audience. Key messages are the core of your writing.While a key message can be drafted to engage, discuss, promote, or advocate, the primary action you wantyour messages to perform in a crisis scenario, is to inform. You must inform your audience of the currentstatus of the situation, what your organization is doing to reconcile the issue, and what actions you want youraudience to take, or in some cases, not to take.Your key messages will differ according to the nature of the crisis and your target audience in a particularcircumstance, however; you can prepare for any situation by constructing some universal key messages here.In all crisis scenarios, your first key message must be a sincere apology for any duress, misdoing, damages,etc. It is important to always begin your messaging by addressing your publics with an admittance for anywrongdoing in order to restore trust in your brand.Key Messages ChartKey Message One:We sincerely apologize for(situation)_____________________________, as it was never ourintention to (outcome)_________________________.Key Message Two:(Your organization)_____________________________ is committed toproviding quality (product or service) ____________________ to(publics)____________________________________ for years to come. 60
  61. 61. Key Message Three:We are currently (actions) ____________________________________to resolve this issue and greatly appreciate your understanding in thisdifficult matter.Additional Key MessagesKey Message Four:Key Message Five: 61
  62. 62. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?In order to avoid bombarding your audience with information that is not pertinent to them, try to compile therelevant information into concise key messages that are clear and complete. The following checklist will helpyou ensure your messages are effective: Question Yes NoHave you identified a specific target audience?Are your messages easily understood by your target audience?Did you avoid the use of jargon?Are your messages concise (max.30 words, 10 seconds)?Were the key messages the focus of the dialogue?Did you provide the most important items first?Is there an appropriate call to action?Have you answered the question: How does this affect me?Are your key messages supported by proven, sourced facts? 62
  63. 63. 4.5 STEP 5.Define the Proper Channels for Communication Audience demographics and psychographics dictate that each audience will respond differently to a particular channel of communication. How can you best reach your identified target audience in a time of crisis to inform, influence, and persuade? Various channels are used in all communications campaigns, however; during a time of crisis, it is important to have some tools waiting in your back pocket.Establish a Dark SiteA dark site is a website that has been prepared by your information technology specialist and is ready to go livewhen the need arises. Web developers should purchase web addresses in anticipation of a Level 3 or 4 crisisscenario – in the middle of a crisis it is often too late to negotiate website design and functionality.Define a Social Media StrategyIf you don’t already have a solid social media presence, get started. Your social media specialist needs torespond to concerns, address false claims, and get the right angle on the story in the online community. It isvirtually impossible to monitor what is being said online without having an ear to the ground. Be active with thesocial media tools your organization has deemed appropriate in order to make connections with this communityand proactively uphold your brand in a positive light.Prepare Traditional Communications ToolsTo manage an internal communications situation, traditional modes of communications still work effectively.Intranet notifications, a memo posted to the employee message board, meetings and announcements, are allstill effective ways to reach internal publics. Make sure you are using these tools to your advantage and decidewhose responsibility it is to prepare such materials now. 63
  64. 64. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?4.6STEP 6: Review the Final Planning ChecklistBefore approaching the media, it is important to make sure that you are fully equipped to answer all inquiries.This checklist will ensure that you have not forgotten any key steps before your story goes public and you planyour media strategy in the next section. Question Yes NoHas the crisis response team been notified?Have all levels of management been properly informed?Have you clearly identified the intensity of the current situation?Is there a consensus amongst your CCT of what must be done to respond tothe crisis?Do you have effective key messages?Have you identified all applicable target audiences?Do you know how to reach them?Have you developed a general strategy and corresponding tactics?Have identified goals and SMART objectives?Have you considered all possible outcomes of your actions? 64
  65. 65. 5.0Media Relations: How To Handle the Mob. Not all crisis scenarios will garner media attention – in fact, it is best if they don’t. However, if your story is big or impactful enough to draw the awareness of the media, you better be prepared. If you are scrambling when a reporter calls or suddenly a whole mob of reporters are perched on your doorstep, your organization’s reputation is at stake and you must proceed carefully and confidently. Although facing a forceful media inquiry can be a scary thought, reporters can also act asallies, helping you inform the community of the current issue. You must work with the media staying upfront,honest, and cooperative at all times.In this section, you must take a look at your current media relations archives to determine what materials areon hand and ready to be sent out to journalists if requested - do you have media kits, B-roll, audio clips, etc.easily available? The more pre-prepared materials you have, the more equipped you will be when the heat is on.5.1 Construct a Media ListBegin your preparation by constructing a media list. You should already have a working media list at yourdisposal, but now is the opportune time to make sure it is up-to-date. Depending on the severity of your crisissituation, you may suddenly be dealing with media attention outside of your regular contacts. Sometimesreporters are contacting you for information and sometimes you are working hard to get to them first withyour key messages – the ladder is preferred.Use the templates provided on the following pages to recordthe names and contact information of key mediainfluencers.*Templates are divided by the various types of media channels.Daily Newspapers 65
  66. 66. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Name Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special Notes Community and Specialty Newspapers 66
  67. 67. Name Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special Notes 67
  68. 68. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? MagazinesName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special Notes 68
  69. 69. TelevisionName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special Notes 69
  70. 70. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? RadioName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special Notes 70
  71. 71. Online CommunityName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special Notes 71
  72. 72. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?5.2 Identify a SpokespersonChoosing the appropriate spokesperson to represent your organization in a time of crisis is a crucial part ofyour crisis communication planning as this person is the human face of your organization. The chosen personmust deliver your key messages in a manner that is sympathetic to those affected by the crisis at hand,offering compassion and empathy.This person could be a communications officer, an expert, or a senior advisor such as your CEO. Whoever youchoose, this person must be made credible by having a full knowledgeable of the working of your organization, ahistory with your organization, and a clean record check.The following checklist will help make the choice easier. Question Yes NoDoes the individual have a personality or story that will resonate with both themedia and audience?Is the spokesperson relevant to the target audience or demographic?Does your potential spokesperson have a working knowledge of yourorganization?Does your spokesperson have a history with your organization or issue? Canthey demonstrate competence and expertise on the issue at hand?Have you performed a comprehensive background check on potentialcandidates?Is your spokesperson media savvy?Can they express empathy, sensitivity to the issue, and remain poised underpressure?Is the spokesperson easily capable of staying on message? 72
  73. 73. 5.3 Train Your SpokespersonYour spokesperson might be your CEO, your communications director, or an outside person who has a historywith your organization and the issue at hand. However, whoever it is, they must be trained and prepared to dealwith difficult media inquiries.Media training is a discipline all to itself - making your candidate appear comfortable and secure in front of acamera in a difficult circumstance is not an easy task and requires expert training.Follow this checklist with your spokesperson and media relations specialist before answering any mediainquiries to ensure you will be prepared. Question Yes NoAre you familiar with the relevant key messages?Are you currently aware of public perception?Have you tested your messages prior to delivery?Can you consistently express and show concern, empathy and compassion?Are you able to sincerely accept responsibility?Are you able to offer an apology?Can you provide a summary of facts on the organization and the action plan inplace?Are you able to be 100 per cent honest in your responses?Can you emphasize dedication, commitment and social responsibility?Can you provide examples and understandable analogies to establishunderstanding?Can you avoid saying “no comment”?Can you stay on point/on message?Can you avoid the use of technical jargon?Can you avoid using humour to address the seriousness of the situation?Can you stay calm under pressure? 73
  74. 74. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Can you avoid defensive, argumentative and unreceptive body language, suchas crossed arms?Can you make consistent eye contact?Are you sensitive to the non-verbal messages you were communicating?Can you provide your full attention to those asking questions?Can you avoid fidgeting or disruptive behavior?Have you reviewed your performance with management?Are you aware of and comfortable with your role in the organization goingforward? 74
  75. 75. 5.4 Sample DocumentsThe tools that you use to contact, inform, and present your story to the media are fairly uniform andstandardized whatever the situation might be. Therefore, make sure that you are familiar with the followingtemplates that will need to be rolled out when the time calls. News Release Media Advisory Holding Statement Empathy Statement FAQ ListNews ReleaseA news release is a PR practitioner’s best friend. It is a key communications tool in a time of calm, and it willnow support you in a time of crisis. Make sure you are well versed in creating effective leads, sticking to properformatting, and following standardized criteria. (Remember to follow an inverted pyramid style whenpresenting pertinent information.)Media AdvisoryIn a crisis situation, a media advisory can be used to give reporters details on your upcoming press conferencewhere you will give them more information in a more controlled and stable environment. Use this template tocreate an “invitation” to your press conference highlighting the 5Ws of the event.Holding StatementA holding statement will inform the press that a crisis situation has just broken, and you will give them moreinformation when it is available. A holding statement will inform the media that you are presently working todetermine the nature of the scenario and that matters are currently under investigation. 75
  76. 76. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Empathy StatementAn empathy statement is an important tool in your crisis media relations plan as it expresses your sympathyand compassion, and informs the public that your organization is working to correct the problem. Accidentshappen, but it is with an empathy statement that you will have a platform to address the issue at hand anddeliver a sincere apology.FAQ ListPreparing a frequently asked questions list will help you anticipate the hard questions reporters will most likelyask, letting you prepare answers that are informed and can be delivered with confidence. Simply create a list ofthe top 30 questions a reporter might ask your spokesperson, making sure to hit on the difficult topics whileanswering all of the 5Ws. 76
  77. 77. 5.5 News Release Template Put on organizational letterhead NEWS RELEASEApril 15, 2011Contact: Contact Person, Position###-###-#### (office)###-###-#### (cell) (e-mail) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Headline should be bolded, lower case(Location): The lead should expand on the headline by answering who, what, when, where,and why? The second paragraph should provide additional facts relevant to the situation. “The third paragraph should encompass a quote from the most relevant source,”says JohnSmith, director of communications for Company X. “Offer new information.Every word should count, sodon’t waste space.” Under most circumstances, the news release should be a maximum of 250 words.“Finish it offwith another quote,” says Smith. “You can use the same speaker or adifferent source to highlightvarious aspects of the crisis.”The boilerplate is usually found at the end of a press release, and briefly describes the organizationrelated above. The short paragraph consists of just a few sentences and is generally used on everypress release. Boilerplates should be up-to-date, clearly written and short. - 30- 77
  78. 78. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?5.6 Media Advisory Template Put on organizational letterhead MEDIA ADVISORYApril 15, 2011Contact: Contact Person, Position###-###-#### (office)###-###-#### (cell) (e-mail) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Headline should focus on the newsworthy item(Location): The opening paragraph should provide the basics of the 5Ws but stimulate media tolearnmore. Mention any persons of interest, such as dignitaries and elected officials who arekey to theevent.What: Describe the event.When: April 22, 2011; 7:00 p.m. Provide the best time for photos, if applicable.Where: Address, location of event and parking directions.Who: A list of important people who will be attending your event.Why: State the reason for the event and, in brief, what will be covered. Donot, however, provide specific information, as that may determediafrom attending.For more information, visit -30- 78
  79. 79. 5.7 Holding Statement Template Put on organizational letterhead HOLDING STATEMENTApril 15, 2011Contact: Contact Person, Position###-###-#### (office)###-###-#### (cell) (e-mail) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Incident at (place of crisis) (Location): Company A has just been informed that… Company A is concerned with…. Paragraph two should give as many of the 5Ws that are known at the present time. Makesure that you are aware of legal requirements and not releasingconfidential information at this time. “The third paragraph should encompass a quote from the most relevant source,”says JohnSmith, director of communications for Company A. Let the media know what actions are currently being undertaken by your organization toaddress the current situation and address who might be affected by this issue and what they shoulddo. Inform the media that additional information will be provided when it is available at a pressconference (where and when), through further news releases, or on your - 30- 79
  80. 80. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?5.8 Empathy Statement Template Put on organizational letterhead EMPATHY STATEMENTApril 15, 2011Contact: Contact Person, Position###-###-#### (office)###-###-#### (cell) (e-mail) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Incident at (place of crisis)The following statement was released by (Name, title, and name of operation) following the (shortdescription of incident and location.)(Location): We understand the concerns, fears, and questions you may have about the (incident) thattook place (time frame.) Our thoughts and prayers are with our employees and their families. At this time, we are doing everything we can to (actions being taken).“The safety and well-being of our (those affected) is our first priority,” says spokesperson. Inform the media that additional information will be provided when it is available at a pressconference (where and when), through further news releases, or on your - 30- 80
  81. 81. 5.9 FAQ List1.What went wrong?2.What caused the problem?3.Who is at fault? much will the relief effort cost? 81
  82. 82. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?5.10Media Centre In crisis Level 3 and 4 scenarios, media attention will be so intense that a media centre will be required to handle the volume of media inquires received and to regularly brief reporters when news breaks. A media centre will also allow your CCT to work closely with both local and regional media in cooperation to deliver the necessary information to the general public. Therefore, your media centre must be a accommodating and comfortable environment for this exchange of information to take place.In such an intense level of crisis, be prepared to provide the media with: Information in a timely manner, Straight facts, reliable sources, and relevant materials, and Readily available points of contact for quotes and more information.When setting-up your media centre where the action will take place, use the following logistics checklist toensure you are meeting reporters’ needs. 82
  83. 83. 5.11 Logistics ChecklistQuickly establish a site for the media before they do. This location should be: A secure location Easily accessible As comfortable as possible Coordinated with regulators Away from family and employees Away from the site of the incidentThe media centre must accommodate: Sufficient parking space with room for satellite trucks A private consultation room Toilet facilities and fresh water Sufficient space for a podium and chairsAdditional equipment: Computers/internet access Copy machine and paper/fax machine and paper Electronic outlets A/V equipment Flip charts and markers Notepaper/pens Landlines (incase of no cell phone coverage) 83
  84. 84. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 5.12 Location Research The middle of a crisis is not the time to find a location for your media centre. Take the time before an issue breaks to research potential locations that you can have on file when needed. Do some research to determine the size of available locations, how long such a venue must be booked in advance, and make initial contact with location representatives. Use the following template to compile this information.Location Size Parking Equipment Reservation Cost Contact Leadtime Name and # 84
  85. 85. 5.13 Contact Log It is important to keep track of who asked what to whom, when. By keeping a contact log, you can monitor the exchange of information in the event that a point is later questioned or needs to be followed up. Your log should look like the following:Date Contact Contact Spoke Details Phone E-mail ActionTime Name Info With 85
  86. 86. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Date Contact Contact Spoke Details Phone E-mail ActionTime Name Info With 86
  87. 87. 5.14Media Monitoring Log Once you have done your job of providing the media with the most timely and accurate information, it is time to monitor the coverage your story is garnering from both local and in some cases, international media outlets. Key criteria to look for is whether coverage had a positive, neutral, or negative tone, and the reach of the story. It is also important to note if the coverage touches upon your key messages and the assess the overall credibility of your spokesperson in delivering those messages. Your Media Monitoring Log should look like the following: Tone Ratings 1-10 Date Media Location Type Reach + / - Key Messages SpokespersonPublished Outlet Credibility 87
  88. 88. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?5.15 Potential PitfallsAvoid using “I.” Speak for the organization using the name or the pronoun “we.” Avoid the impression that you, alone, are the authority or the sole decision-maker. Never disagree with the organization you represent saying: “Personally, I don’t agree,” or “Speaking for myself…”Avoid speculation. Stick to the facts of what has, is, and will be done. Avoid speculating on worst-case scenarios or pre-determining possible outcomes.Avoid making promises you can’t keep. Promise only what you can deliver. State your willingness to explore other options.Avoid jargon, technical terms or acronyms. Limit their use and fully explain those you must use.Avoid negative words and phrases. Stay optimistic Avoid highly-charged analogies, like “At least this is not Bhopal.”Don’t blame others. Accept your fair share of responsibility. Don’t point fingers at others. Focus your communications on how problems can be rectified, not whose fault it is.Avoid using humour as a crutch. Humour of any kind is not appropriate in a crisis situation.Don’t repeat negative allegations. Refute critical allegations concisely. Draw upon and reinforce your key messages of reparation and support.Don’t become defensive. Respond to issues not personalities. End debates rather than continue them. Stay calm in all situations. 88
  89. 89. 6.0Evaluation and Moving Forward: Are You On Track? After the heat of the crisis has died down, dont let negative content define you or your organization. Although you cannot go back in time and erase what happened, you can now begin to focus on the future and rebuild your reputation, repair public trust, and strengthening your brand. Will effective issues management is the more proactive approach, after a crisis, reputation repair is a reactive measure. Over time, managing and controlling your reputation should become easier and easier.6.1 EvaluationIf you took the time to create SMART objectives, you can now see if you successfully met your goals and beginto evaluate the effectiveness of your crisis communications efforts. By using your original SMART objectives asa measuring tool, you will discover your CCT’s strengths and weaknesses, helping you prepare yourself forfuture scenarios that could be more or less intense.Use the following template to plug in your original goals and objectives and compare the outcome of eacheffort. 89
  90. 90. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?SMART Objective Evaluation OriginalGoal SMART Objective Outcome 90
  91. 91. Original Goal SMART Objective Outcome 91
  92. 92. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?6.2 BudgetingResolving a crisis situation can be a very costly matter. However, if you don’t do anything, your organizationcould suffer the risk of extinction. While great efforts need to be made to address the issue at hand, it isimportant to track your spending on reparations to avoid hitting bankruptcy.While it is impossible to project the total cost of your campaign, it is important to always keep track of yourexpenditures. Spending will be an ongoing concern, therefore; your financial experts and senior managementteam need to be consulted before any large expenses are approved.The budget template in the Appendix will help you to track your finances.6.3 Change the Conversation While it should no longer be necessary to work as intensely as it was in the middle of a crisis scenario, it will still be vital to consistently manage your brand reputation. If you don’t like what people are saying about your organization after the fallout, it is now time to change the conversation. By publically changing your conduct, you can project an image of a more advanced and mature brand than before the crisis situation occurred. Acampaign designed to highlight good works and corporate social responsibility will demonstrate growth andhelp to restore the public trust.Corporate social responsibility or CSR is a very popular concept in the marketing and communications industrytoday. While thinking strategically, you want to make sure that your efforts are still regarded as authentic andsincere withoutappearing forged – leading to further damage of your reputation and insulting your publics.Use the following template to brainstorm PR campaign strategies that will demonstrate the reverse of whatpeople are saying about you right now.While a natural disaster or a crashing stock market are situations that are completely out of your control,diligently following the advice given in this handbook and taking responsibility for filling out the templatesprovided, will help give you perspective, challenge your current mode of conduct, and alert you to possibledangers.Always remember that proactive issues management is the most effective way to avoid a crisis scenario,keeping you moving in the right direction.CSR Brainstorming Satellite 92
  93. 93. Currentpublic perception 93
  94. 94. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Appendix Budgetary EvaluationItem Dept. Projected Actual Difference Approved Total Total By 94
  95. 95. Item Dept. Projected Actual Difference Approved Total Total By 95
  96. 96. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Item Dept. Projected Actual Difference Approved Total Total By 96