Crisis Communications Planning


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Bad things happen; however, many organizations have not prepared a crisis communications plan.

How hard is it to prepare a custom crisis communications plan? What goes into a crisis communications plan? What is the difference between a crisis communications plan and an emergency action plan? What do you need to be ready for?

Answering these questions is easier now than during a crisis. This presentation outlines key things you should do to prepare for all types of potential crises and provides a simple action plan towards completing a preliminary crisis communications plan.

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Crisis Communications Planning

  1. 1. 1
  2. 2. Crisis CommunicationsPlanningBarbara Pierce, APRTipping Point Public RelationsNovember 8, 2012
  3. 3. What is a “crisis”?Critical event or point of decision which, if not handledin an appropriate and timely manner (or if not handledat all), may turn into a disaster or catastrophe. 3
  4. 4. Types of Crises• What does a “crisis” look like to your organization? – Product issue – Facilities issue – Service issue – Natural disaster – Financial issue – Mistake – HR issue – Accident • Discrimination – Injury or death • Harassment – Protest – Employee misconduct – Coordinated external – Executive misconduct campaign (e.g., online) – Board misconduct 4
  5. 5. What happens to people in crisis?A flood of epinephrine, norepinephrine and otherhormones cause changes in the body:• heart rate and blood pressure increase• pupils dilate• veins in skin constrict• blood-glucose level increases• muscles tense up, energized by adrenaline and glucose• smooth muscle relaxes so more oxygen gets to the lungs• nonessential systems (digestion, immune system) shut down• trouble focusing on small tasks (brain is directed to focus only on big picture to determine where threat is coming from) 5
  6. 6. The “Fight or Flight” Response“When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival…We may overreact to the slightest comment. Our fear is exaggerated. Our thinking is distorted... Fear becomes the lens through which we see the world.” - Neil M. Neimark, M.D., The Body/Soul Connection 6
  7. 7. “Fight or Flight” in a business crisis`• Overreaction• Defensiveness• Aggression• Paranoia• Anger• Tunnel vision 7
  8. 8. Crisis Communications Plans• Planning for potential issues when we’re in a thoughtful and coherent frame of mind• First-aid kit• Fire escape plan• Hurricane plan 8
  9. 9. When Opportunity Knocks… Wei Chi crisis = danger + opportunity 9
  10. 10. Crisis Communications Plans• Are not disaster response plans – Do the right thing – Utilize (or define) established operational and emergency response protocols• Are never final – Continually adjust to meet current realities – Set schedule for regular reviews and updates – Quarterly or biannually 10
  11. 11. Crisis Communications Objectives• Minimize the impact of a crisis on operations and target audiences• Minimize the amount of time spent focused on the crisis – Internally – By our constituents• Regain control of the situation and the conversation as quickly as possible 11
  12. 12. Crisis Communications Approach• Anticipate – Identify potential threats – Monitor areas of risk• Prepare – Define key information in advance• Respond – React quickly and efficiently – Utilize standard processes and procedures 12
  13. 13. Identify potential threats, monitor areas of riskANTICIPATE 13
  14. 14. Threats Analysis• Brainstorm areas of threat: – What is likely to happen? • Typical/expected issues within your organization • A negative outcome of your day-to-day operations • Issues you, your counterparts, or your competition have experienced in the past 10 years – What is the worst thing that could happen? • Areas of big risk • Show-stoppers 14
  15. 15. Monitor Areas of Risk• Incorporate discussions of threats and brewing situations during regular internal meetings – Add as standing topic on management meeting agendas• Listen! – Traditional media – Google Alerts, RSS feeds – Social media: Facebook, Twitter – The employee and customer grapevine 15
  16. 16. Manage Issues (before they’re crises)• Minimize threats – Proactively pursue solutions to potential issues – Make changes to preempt potential problems• Address problems quickly and directly – When issues arise, address them directly and immediately – Follow organizational policies and procedures to the letter 16
  17. 17. Define key information in advancePREPARE 17
  18. 18. Emergency Protocols• Establish, document and communicate emergency protocols – Ensure internal teams know and practice processes and procedures in the event of emergencies – Document protocols to ensure clarity and help educate teams on proper processes • Documented protocols, signed by staff and volunteers, support communications efforts later• Ensure Crisis Communications Protocols dovetail with Emergency Protocols 18
  19. 19. The Crisis Communications Team• Whom do you need on your team to manage communications around the potential threats?• Define their roles (not their titles!)• Define their responsibilities on the crisis communications team• How will you reach them? – Relevant contact information 19
  20. 20. The Crisis Communications Team• Spokesperson • Operations Lead• Media Relations Lead • Board Liaison• Social Media Lead • Employee Liaison• Communications • Funder Liaison Counsel • Volunteer Liaison• Legal Counsel • Liaison to National• Front Line Lead & Team Organization/Parent Members • Others 20
  21. 21. Crisis Communications Command Centers• Team Command Center – Where does the Crisis Communications Team meet? – What resources will your team need to effectively coordinate in a crisis? – What’s your back-up plan?• Media Command/Update Center – How will you update the media? – What resources will they need? – How do you protect the team and employees while regularly sharing key information? 21
  22. 22. Communications Policies & Procedures• Media Relations and Social Media Policies & Procedures, e.g., – No informal conversations or communications about the crisis via email, text, or other written form – All communications reviewed by legal – Only designated spokesperson(s) – No “off the record” – Define procedures for press conference updates – Establish procedures for Social Media Lead to feed information into team about online conversation 22
  23. 23. Communications Policies & Procedures• Inbound Inquiry Protocol, e.g., – No Crisis Team member should answer inbound calls from unknown numbers (or known media numbers) – let calls go to voicemail and check voicemail often – Communicate standard reception messages – No Crisis Team member or employee should comment to anyone about the situation – refer all inbound inquiries to Front Line or Communications Lead 23
  24. 24. Communications Policies & Procedures• Other important Policies and Procedures for communications to: – Funders – Employees – Families or Other “Affected Audiences” 24
  25. 25. Communications Resources: ListsUpdated lists, contact information, and details:• Management Phone Trees• Media Lists• Employee Distribution Lists• Communications Consultant Contact Information• Legal Consultant Contact Information• Monitoring Services 25
  26. 26. Communications Resources: Templates• Media Statement Template• News Release Template• Fact Sheets – For likely issues• Fact Sheet Template 26
  27. 27. Communications Resources: Your Brand• Reminders of what you stand for – Prepare yourself to recognize opportunities in the mess• Standard Organizational Key Messages• Organizational Fact Sheet• Key Issues• Boilerplate 27
  28. 28. Prepare the Team• Alert team members that they’re on the team!• Brief the Team – Review Crisis Communications Plan – Discuss their individual roles & responsibilities and how they engage with their teammates – Conduct regular review briefings – bi-annual at least, during which you review updated plan• Media Train Spokespeople – Conduct regular refresher trainings – Remind them of the core brand/key messages• Drills 28
  29. 29. Get Ready to Get Ready to Respond• Develop checklists and worksheets – Identify the key questions you’ll need answers to – before you’re in crisis mode 29
  30. 30. React quickly & efficiently, utilize standard processes & proceduresRESPOND 30
  31. 31. Scope Assessment• Develop list of questions that will help quantify a crisis situation when it happens – How many people are involved/aware? – Is media already covering the situation? – What is the financial impact?• Establish quantitative thresholds that distinguishes between “issues to watch” and “full-blown crises” – How many online impressions warrant a response vs. quietly monitoring? – Remember: sometimes an aggressive response on your part can make a minor issue a larger crisis! 31
  32. 32. Crisis Checklist and Worksheet• Develop a literal checklist for the Crisis Communications Lead for any situation – What steps should you take in the moment? – Develop your to-do list when you are able to thoughtfully consider and outline important steps• Develop Fact-Gathering Worksheet – List of facts you will need to confirm to assess the situation – Simple but comprehensive, this list can span dozens of questions • Start with who, what, when, where, how 32
  33. 33. Logs• Track your communications – Who’s made inquiries – What was said – By whom – When – How – To whom• Be deliberate in your communications – Don’t allow the way you communicate to worsen the crisis! 33
  34. 34. Crisis Communications Plans Wei Chi crisis = danger + opportunity 34
  35. 35. Barbara Pierce, APR Tipping Point Public Relations 277 Alexander Street, Suite 100 Rochester, NY 14607 (585) 340-1119 www.tippingpointpr.comFollow us on Twitter: @TippingPointPR