Crisis Communications Handbook


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Crisis communications handbook

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Crisis Communications Handbook

  1. 1. CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS HANDBOOK   Are you prepared?                                   Written By Charlotte Jewer This handbook belongs to:      _______________________________________________________________________________ 
  4. 4. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 1.0 Introduction and handbook instructions1.1 IntroductionLife is unpredictable - while things might be going accordingto plan today, tomorrow is another story.A crisis can come in many forms - a precarious economy, moodyMother Nature, mechanical failure, and human loss or human error, can allpresent serious complications for any organization at any time. While all of thesecircumstances are out of anyone’s control, how you handle the fallout is what willeither save or sink the ship.While crisis communications planning has always been on the radar for mostorganizations, in today’s fast-paced globally connected world, citizens andconsumers are more savy, vocal, and in-tune than ever before. There is a demandfor transparency and organizations must be prepared to be open and honest withthe general public.This handbook is meant to help you and your organization prepare for a storm. Inthe world of crisis communications, preparedness can equal success. It is aboutbuilding the right team, knowing your audience, creating strategic messages, andguiding the media. Much of this work can be done before a crisis hits, letting youact quickly, confidently, and effectively. Consequently, it is how you behave in thefirst few hours of a crisis that proves to be critical in minimizing the damage doneto your business and most importantly, your reputation.  4 
  5. 5. 1.2 Handbook instructions and contractThis handbook can be used as your guide to help you create a comprehensivecrisis communications plan and team for your organization. It will be your job tobe the crisis communications team leader, or CCTL, to take-charge of compilinginformation and completing the templates provided in this handbook. It will alsobe your job to act as the knowledge 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 andoffsite. It is important to note that finalized plans also need to be maintained inboth electronic and paper formats at each location in order to be effective.As a primary rule, your crisis communications plan must be kept up-to-date at alltimes. On a regular basis, when the contact details of crisis communications teammembers 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 and December 15 are recommended as favourable times.Circumstances are always changing both within and outside 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 crisisteam members have a copy of the plan along with key emergency responsepartners in the event of a crisis. After all, the documents and details contained inyour plan will not only help you save your organization’s reputation, but in criticalcircumstances, it can also save lives.I _______________________________________________, am responsible for fillingout the templates in this crisis communications handbook in full.I will review my plan on (DATES)__________________________ and__________________________ along with all other CCT members on a regularsemi- annual basis, committing to make necessary changes to the plan as theymay 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. 2.0 Getting 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. Before any damaging crisisscenarios come to fruition, is it important to get organized.In order to do so, this section will highlight a list of important documents thatmust be fully completed and kept in active files. • Skills inventory • Crisis communications team roles (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?2.1 Skills inventoryWho do you call when disaster strikes? Answering this question will allow you tobuild a competent and reliable team of allies that will work together to stabilizethe situation and repair the damage done. When choosing these individuals, askyourself what their strengths and weaknesses are both in and out of theworkplace allowing 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 youto compile a team of people that compliment each other and bring new talents tothe team. While most of your team members will come from a communicationsbackground, don’t be afraid to look outside of your department for help.*Use the template on the following page to find three possible candidates foreach skill.  8 
  9. 9. Skills inventory Required 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; thefollowing are key roles that need to be delegated. Based on the informationcollected in your skills inventory and upon agreement of each suitable 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 abrief biography on each team member 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 scenarioThe media will inevitably be looking for this information when a crisis hits to add apersonal angle to their reports. It is imperative that you create these biographiesin preparation for a crisis, as this information will be extremely difficult to gatherin 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 andspokesperson. These people will have direct contact with the media, therefore;their biographies need to be especially accurate, informative, and sharply 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 biographiesLeader – Ronald SmithRonald Smith has been with Company A as the head of the public relationsdepartment for nine years. A specialist in communications planning and branddevelopment, Mr. Smith’s organizational skills and advanced knowledge ofCompany A’s clientele, have made him the lead of the crisis communicationsteam.Mr. Smith was previously involved in the successful resolution of a product recallin 2005, directing media relations and restoring the trust of key stakeholders.Internal Affairs Coordinator – Donna WarrenDonna Warren began working with Company B as a sales manager in 1998. Hersuperior team management skills and passion for Company B’s brand, propelledMrs. Warren to the position as operations officer of Company B’s eastern retaildepartment in 2007. Mrs. Warren’s thorough knowledge of the mechanics ofCompany B’s operations, along with her exceptional interpersonal skills, make hera strong internal affairs coordinator. Mrs. Warren successfully managed her salesteam through the regretful downsizing of the eastern retail division in 2000 withgrace and compassion.  12 
  13. 13. Biographies list Leader Assistant Senior Advisor  13 
  14. 14. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Executive Leader Spokesperson Internal Affairs Coordinator  14 
  15. 15. External Affairs Coordinator Media Relations Officer Social Media Specialist  15 
  16. 16. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Financial Officer Human Resource Specialist and Family Liaison Information Technology Specialist  16 
  17. 17. Legal Council  17 
  18. 18. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 2.4 Communications 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 Address Home # Cell# E-mail CCT role Date revisedJoseph Media Relations 52 Spruce Dr. (613) (613) 01/01/11Brown Ottawa, ON K1S 234-5787 234-9908 5P9Lisa 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 Address Home # Contact # E-mail Date revised   19 
  20. 20. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Name CCT role Address Home # Cell # E-mail Date revised   20 
  21. 21. 2.5 Organizational flow chart Once you have built your team, it 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 Executive Board of Directors CCT Leader CCT members Internal Relations Team External Relations Team Media Relations TeamManagement Human Investors/Donors/Members Spokespeople Resources Internal Employees Government Contacts Media contactsdepartments 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 team 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 Assistant Information Technology Coordinator Internal Affairs Coordinator External Affairs CoordinatorHuman Resources Specialist Financial Officer Media Relations Officer and Family Liaison Management Spokesperson Social Media Coordinator   22 
  23. 23. 2.7 CCT 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 basedon a “need to know” basis – create a hierarchy based on who needs to know whatinformation before someone else in the chain to effectively communicate yourmessage.Once your name is placed on the far left of the tree, follow the lines across whereyou will add two new names and corresponding telephone numbers in each boxfollowing your communications chain of command. By completing the telephonetree template provided on the next page, each person will only have to contacttwo new people, who each contact two people themselves, and so on, lesseningthe burden on the team leader.*Your executive leader, or CEO, will have to be informed directly by the teamleader, as the information given to the CEO needs to be as direct and accurate aspossible. This person should be at the top of your contact list.To create an interactive version of your telephone tree, use an Excel template. Insuch a template, each person should have three contacts each. By using simpleExcel formulas, members of your telephone tree can easily be replaced andupdated 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 trainingexercise in order to get a feel for how well your team performs and to learn whatareas need to be improved. This activity should be scheduled twice a year, withthe same importance as fire drills and evacuation procedures.Additionally, a media training session for your spokesperson and media relationsspecialist will also need to be scheduled into your annual calendar. A mediatraining specialist will most likely need to be brought in from a local agency, asthis is a highly specialized discipline with training that needs to be conducted byexperienced experts.  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 yourfacts straight. This includes having a finalized organizational backgrounder andfact sheet at your disposal. These documents describe your organization, outlineyour reason for being, and answer any anticipated questions the media or generalpublic may 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 activitiesThis document must be accurate and up-to-date and should be reviewed regularlyduring your scheduled semi-annual meetings. Once finalized, your backgroundershould be included in your news releases sent to the media during a crisissituation. Including this information in your news release will allow you to providepertinent information about your company to the media quickly and accurately.A fact sheet acts much the same way as a backgrounder written in a bullet-styleformat. A fact sheet allows you to offer a reporter a shortcut to the informationthey need in a hurry. Preparing such a document before a crisis strikes reducesthe need for you to personally answer common questions pertaining to yourorganization in a time crunch.Simply attach factual points on your organization’s history, operations,products/services, community relations activities, key players, etc. to your newsreleases allowing reporters to virtually cut and paste important points.  26 
  27. 27. Backgrounder template  27 
  28. 28. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Fact sheet template • Organizational history and headquarters • Operations (local, national, international and industry size) • Products/services • Community relations initiatives • Key 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 orall 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 acrisis strikes to avoid overlooking any key players - neglecting any of these keygroups could cause them to lash-out and have a negative impact on youroperations. 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 satellite Key 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. 3.0 Issues 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 communicationsat Hill & Knowlton Ottawa, the very definition of a crisis directly relates to yourorganization’s image: “A crisis is an event or series of events that can severelydamage 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 withgreat tact. As the premier rule, effective issues management is the best form ofcrisis prevention. Following through these various steps of identification will allowyou 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 cangreatly reduce the element of surprise. Therefore, the first step of issuesmanagement is to identify potential problems by conducting a SWOT Analysis. Byreviewing your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats,you have a better chance of predicting what issues could possibly arise.Simply list in bullet points the strengths your organization has in your field alongwith the corresponding weaknesses that are internal to your organization. Thenbreakdown the opportunities that exist for your organization for growth andexpansion followed by threats you face from competitors or other external forces.In order to gain additional insight into your organization, practitioners should beactively conducting media monitoring activities, consulting both upper and lowerlevel management, studying other competitive organizations, and taking thegeneral temperature of your stakeholders.When completed, the weaknesses and threats listed in your SWOT Analysisshould highlight potentially damaging scenarios that could be of crisis proportionsif left unaddressed.  42 
  43. 43. SWOT analysis Strengths Weaknesses• Strong community reputation • Poor knowledge of localofficials Opportunities Threats• Partnership 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. Thefollowing list of scenarios could adversely impact operations, financial stability,and the underlying reputation of your organization. Possible crisis situations andscenarios 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 Reputation 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 todetermine the severity of the situation. A crisis could rock the very foundation ofyour organization or it could be easily handled internally without any harm topublic perception, allowing you to get back to business as usual.Using the chart below, evaluate the intensity of the crisis using the four levelidentification system. For Levels 1 and 2, the crisis team should plan on ongoingreviews of the situation, but the full crisis plan may not need to be implemented.For any issues identified as a Level 3 or 4, the crisis team should be alertedimmediately and prepare for action.Each level is determined not only by the obvious severity of the situation, but alsoby the media attention received. However, while it is true that many crisissituations can be handled internally and virtually go “under the radar” of publicawareness, it is always of highest importance to be honest and truthful with allaudiences during a difficult situation. Attempting to cover-up or underreportmatters of public safety will only result in legal battles, a loss of trust, and theerosion 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 beactivated as the media are virtually unaware of the current situation as it pertainsto your organization. However, if the media does make a call, a brief statementneeds to be made to assure the public that the incident is under control.Internal audience members such as the management team and employeesshould be made aware of the issue through the human resources specialist alongwith information on how the issue is being handled.Stakeholders must be made aware of the situation and informed of what iscurrently being done to mend the issue and get back to business as usual.Level 2: In a Level 2 scenario, the public is aware of the situation, but no harmhas been done to your organization’s reputation. The procedure for a Level 1situation must be followed in such a scenario in addition to media outreach toassure 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 newsrelease must be issued in order to give reporters accurate and timely informationon the issue. (Templates are provided in Media Relations: How to Handle theMob.)Level 3: The intensity of the situation has now mounted to a troubling height ina Level 3 crisis scenario. Public outrage is beginning to mount and stakeholdersgrow concerned about the health of their assets. Actions need to be taken to quellpublic unrest and anger.It is now imperative that at this level, a more forceful media relations plan needsto be put into action. CCT members need to be on high alert and are expected tobe available at any time.Level 4: At this level of crisis, a major shock to your organization has causedthe full attention of all your internal and external publics to be fully drawn to theissue at hand.Your CEO must provide a public address of empathy and caring to the media atlarge to demonstrate sympathy and apologize to the general public. Without suchan address, there is no chance of repairing public confidence in your brandwithout the alienation and further aggravation of certain audiences.  48 
  49. 49. 4.0 Communications planning: Getting the PR process rightA crisis has been identified and all of your CCT members have been notified. Nowwhat? It is time to think tactically, clarify your messages, and build a winningstrategy.The nature and severity of the crisis situation that you are facing will dictatewhether the crisis is an internal matter or of public concern, needs immediateattention or can be handled with ease, garners media attention or is easily keptwithin 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 forcommunicationSTEP 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 informationneeds to be primarily communicated to your employees, the families ofemployees, investors, or organization members, etc.? Or, does your message needto be received largely by the general public reaching groups such as consumers,activists, or your local community through the media? These are the questionsthat will determine your target audience.In some cases this will be a highly defined demographic, in others, your audiencecould be the entire community in which you operate, or, in a colossal case, yourstory could garner unfavourable international media attention – think of theBritish Petroleum oil spill.Use the template on the next page to examine all of your possible internal andexternal target audiences and draw linkages between them.  50 
  51. 51. Internal audiences  51 
  52. 52. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?External audiences  52 
  53. 53. 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 or telephone may varyRegional Media Press release, phone Media Relations Officer 0-3 hours Level 3 interview, in-person interview 0-1 hour Level 4   53 
  54. 54. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?  54 
  55. 55. 4.2 STEP 2: Approve your goals and objectivesYour main goal is to get back to business as usual with as little damage to yourorganization’s reputation as possible. However, depending on the type of crisisscenario, you will also have various other goals to chart along the way tonormalcy. You must ask yourself, what must you achieve by when?Next, your objectives must align with your goals– objectives are the road map forachieving your goals. An objective will address the 5Ws of your target goals in aspecific and attainable manner.To create valuable objectives, they must be SMART or,SpecificMeasurableAttainableRealisticand Time limited.By adhering to this criteria, you will be able to successfully measure the success ofyour communications campaign when the crisis is over. This is very important asyou need to know if you have indeed met your objectives and communicated yourmessages 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 correspondingobjectives.  55 
  56. 56. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? SMART objectives chart Goal Corresponding objective S M A R TSuccessfully recall Directly alert all retailers in thedamaged products in the eastern sales region via telephone ofeastern sales region an immediate product recall towithout losing retailer product numbers S479 to S481 to Yes Yes Yes Yes Yesconfidence. be returned to the Cassleman manufacturing plant before September 20, 2011.   56 
  57. 57. 4.3 STEP 3: Approve your strategy and tacticsYour strategy is part of the big picture - what approach must your CCT take to getover the mountain and attain your goals? While your strategy must be based onthe 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 withthe media, your employees, your clients, and all concerned publics. Withholdinginformation or trying to cover-up a mishap will only make the situation worseresulting in a total loss of credibility.Building effective strategies and tactics that will communicate key information ina crisis situation, takes creativity. Use the template provided to brainstorm somestrategic concepts and three corresponding tactics to achieve those ends. Apologize to retailers directly Restore retailer confidence after product recall Provide detailed information on affected products Grant full refunds to retailers  57 
  58. 58. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Strategy map  58 
  59. 59. 4.4 STEP 4: Establish effective key messagesAs a communications professional, you should be well aware of what a keymessage is - the primary thought that 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 want your messages to perform in a crisis scenario, is toinform. You must inform your audience of the current status of the situation, whatyour 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 targetaudience in a particular circumstance, however; you can prepare for any situationby constructing some universal key messages here. In all crisis scenarios, yourfirst key message must be a sincere apology for any duress, misdoing, damages,etc. It is important to always begin your messaging by admitting any wrongdoingin 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.  59 
  60. 60. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?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:  60 
  61. 61. In order to avoid bombarding your audience with information that is not pertinentto them, try to compile the relevant information into concise key messages thatare clear and complete. The following checklist will help you ensure yourmessages are effective: Question Yes NoHave you identified a specific target audience?Are your messages easily understood by your targetaudience?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 affectme?Are your key messages supported by proven, sourcedfacts?  61 
  62. 62. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?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 yourback pocket.Establish a dark siteA dark site is a website that has been prepared by your information technologyspecialist and is ready to go live when the need arises. Web developers shouldpurchase web addresses in anticipation of a Level 3 or 4 crisis scenario – in themiddle 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 socialmedia specialist needs to respond to concerns, address false claims, and get theright angle on the story in the online community. It is virtually impossible tomonitor what is being said online without having an ear to the ground. Be activewith the social media tools your organization has deemed appropriate in order tomake connections with this community and proactively uphold your brand in apositive light.Prepare traditional communications toolsTo manage an internal communications situation, traditional modes ofcommunications still work effectively. Intranet notifications, a memo posted tothe employee message board, meetings and announcements, are all still effectiveways to reach internal publics. Make sure you are using these tools to youradvantage and decide whose responsibility it is to prepare such materials now.  62 
  63. 63. 4.6 STEP 6: Final planning checklistBefore approaching the media, it is important to make sure that you are fullyequipped to answer all inquiries. This checklist will ensure that you have notforgotten any key steps before your story goes public and you plan your mediastrategy in the next section. Question Yes NoHas the crisis response team been notified?Have all levels of management been properlyinformed?Have you clearly identified the intensity of the currentsituation?Is there a consensus amongst your CCT of what mustbe done to respond to the 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 andcorresponding tactics?Have identified goals and SMART objectives?Have you considered all possible outcomes of youractions?  63 
  64. 64. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 5.0 Media 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 canalso act as allies, helping you inform the community of the current issue. Youmust 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 todetermine what materials are on hand and ready to be sent out to journalists ifrequested - do you have media kits, B-roll, audio clips, etc. easily available? Themore pre-prepared materials you have, the more equipped you will be when theheat is on.5.1 Construct a media listBegin your preparation by constructing a media list. You should already have aworking media list at your disposal, but now is the opportune time to make sure itis up-to-date. Depending on the severity of your crisis situation, you may suddenlybe dealing with media attention outside of your regular contacts. Sometimesreporters are contacting you for information and sometimes you are working hardto get to them first with your key messages – the ladder is preferred.Use the templates provided on the following pages to record the names andcontact information of key media influencers.*Templates are divided by the various types of media channels.  64 
  65. 65. Daily newspapersName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special notes   65 
  66. 66. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Community and specialty newspapersName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special notes   66 
  67. 67. MagazinesName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special notes   67 
  68. 68. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? TelevisionName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special notes   68 
  69. 69. RadioName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special notes   69 
  70. 70. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Online communityName Position Outlet Phone Fax E-mail Special notes   70 
  71. 71. 5.2 Identify a spokespersonChoosing the appropriate spokesperson to represent your organization in a time ofcrisis is a crucial part of your crisis communication planning as this person is thehuman face of your organization. The chosen person must deliver your keymessages 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 suchas your CEO. Whoever you choose, this person must be made credible by having afull knowledgeable of the working of your organization, a history with yourorganization, and a clean record check. The following checklist will help make thechoice easier. Question Yes NoDoes the individual have a personality or story that willresonate with both the media and audience?Is the spokesperson relevant to the target audience ordemographic?Does your potential spokesperson have a workingknowledge of your organization?Does your spokesperson have a history with yourorganization or issue? Can they demonstrate competenceand expertise on the issue at hand?Have you performed a comprehensive background checkon potential candidates?Is your spokesperson media savvy?Can they express empathy, sensitivity to the issue, andremain poised under pressure?Is the spokesperson easily capable of staying onmessage?  71 
  72. 72. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?5.3 Train your spokespersonYour spokesperson might be your CEO, your communications director, or anoutside person who has a history with your organization and the issue at hand.However, whoever it is, they must be trained and prepared to deal with difficultmedia inquiries.Media training is a discipline all to itself - making your candidate appearcomfortable and secure in front of a camera in a difficult circumstance is not aneasy task and requires expert training.Follow this checklist with your spokesperson and media relations specialist beforeanswering any media inquiries 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, empathyand compassion?Are you able to sincerely accept responsibility?Are you able to offer an apology?Can you provide a summary of facts on the organizationand the action plan in place?Are you able to be 100 per cent honest in yourresponses?Can you emphasize dedication, commitment and socialresponsibility?Can you provide examples and understandable analogiesto establish understanding?Can you avoid saying “no comment”?Can you stay on point/on message?Can you avoid the use of technical jargon?  72 
  73. 73. Can you avoid using humour to address the seriousnessof the situation?Can you stay calm under pressure?Can you avoid defensive, argumentative and unreceptivebody language, such as crossed arms?Can you make consistent eye contact?Are you sensitive to the non-verbal messages you werecommunicating?Can you provide your full attention to those askingquestions?Can you avoid fidgeting or disruptive behavior?Have you reviewed your performance with management?Are you aware of and comfortable with your role in theorganization going forward?  73 
  74. 74. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?5.4 Sample documentsThe tools that you use to contact, inform, and present your story to the media arefairly uniform and standardized whatever the situation might be. Therefore, makesure that you are familiar with the following templates that will need to be rolledout 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 toolin a time of calm, and it will now support you in a time of crisis. Make sure you arewell versed in creating effective leads, sticking to proper formatting, and followingstandardized 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 yourupcoming press conference where you will give them more information in a morecontrolled and stable environment. Use this template to create an “invitation” toyour 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 more information when it is available. A holding statementwill inform the media that you are presently working to determine the nature ofthe scenario and that matters are currently under investigation.  74 
  75. 75. Empathy statementAn empathy statement is an important tool in your crisis media relations plan as itexpresses your sympathy and compassion, and informs the public that yourorganization is working to correct the problem. Accidents happen, but it is with anempathy 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 hardquestions reporters will most likely ask, letting you prepare answers that areinformed and can be delivered with confidence. Simply create a list of the top 30questions a reporter might ask your spokesperson, making sure to hit on thedifficult topics while answering all of the 5Ws.  75 
  76. 76. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?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 thesituation. “The third paragraph should encompass a quote from the mostrelevant source,” says John Smith, director of communications for CompanyX. “Offer new information. Every word should count, so don’t waste space.” Under most circumstances, the news release should be a maximumof 250 words. “Finish it off with another quote,” says Smith. “You can usethe same speaker or a different source to highlight various aspects of thecrisis.”The boilerplate is usually found at the end of a press release, and brieflydescribes the organization related above. The short paragraph consists ofjust a few sentences and is generally used on every press release.Boilerplates should be up-to-date, clearly written and short. - 30 -  76 
  77. 77. 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 butstimulate media to learn more. Mention any persons of interest, such asdignitaries and elected officials who are key to the event.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. Do not, however, provide specific information, as that may deter media from attending.For more information, visit -30-  77 
  78. 78. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?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 isconcerned with…. Paragraph two should give as many of the 5Ws that are known at thepresent time. Make sure that you are aware of legal requirements and notreleasing confidential information at this time. “The third paragraph should encompass a quote from the mostrelevant source,” says John Smith, director of communications for CompanyA. Let the media know what actions are currently being undertaken byyour organization to address the current situation and address who mightbe affected by this issue and what they should do. Inform the media that additional information will be provided when itis available at a press conference (where and when), through further newsreleases, or on your website: - 30 -  78 
  79. 79. 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 ofoperation) following the (short description of incident and location.)(Location): We understand the concerns, fears, and questions you may haveabout the (incident) that took place (time frame.) Our thoughts and prayersare 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,” saysspokesperson. Inform the media that additional information will be provided when itis available at a press conference (where and when), through further newsreleases, or on your website: - 30 -  79 
  80. 80. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?5.9 FAQ list1. What went wrong?2. What caused the problem?3. Who is at fault? Who much will the relief effort cost?  80 
  81. 81. 5.10 Media 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 andcomfortable 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 thefollowing logistics checklist to ensure you are meeting reporters’ needs.  81 
  82. 82. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 5.11 Logistics checklistQuickly establish a site for the media before they do. This locationshould 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)  82 
  83. 83. 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 #   83 
  84. 84. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 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   84 
  85. 85. Date Contact Contact Spoke Details Phone E-mail Actiontime name info with   85 
  86. 86. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 5.14 Media 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 are 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 to 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 messagespublished outlet spokesperson mention credibility   86 
  87. 87.  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 outcomesAvoid making promises you can’t keep. • Promise only what you can deliver • State your willingness to explore other optionsAvoid 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 isAvoid using humour as a crutch. • Humour of any kind is not appropriate in a crisis situationDon’t repeat negative allegations. • Refute critical allegations concisely • Draw upon and reinforce your key messages of reparation and supportDon’t become defensive. • Respond to issues not personalities • End debates rather than continue them • Stay calm in all situations  87 
  88. 88. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? 6.0 Evaluation 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 yousuccessfully met your goals and begin to evaluate the effectiveness of your crisiscommunications efforts. By using your original SMART objectives as a measuringtool, you will discover your CCT’s strengths and weaknesses, helping you prepareyourself for future scenarios that could be more or less intense.Use the following template to plug in your original goals and objectives andcompare the outcome of each effort.  88 
  89. 89. SMART objective evaluation Original goal SMART objective Outcome   89 
  90. 90. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?6.2 BudgetingResolving a crisis situation can be a very costly matter. However, if you don’t doanything, your organization could suffer the risk of extinction. While great effortsneed to be made to address the issue at hand, it is important to track yourspending on reparations to avoid hitting bankruptcy.While it is impossible to project the total cost of your campaign, it is important toalways keep track of your expenditures. Spending will be an ongoing concern,therefore; your financial experts and senior management team need to beconsulted before any large expenses are approved.The budget template in the Appendix will help you to track your finances.6.3 Changing the conversationIf you don’t like what people are saying about your organization after the fallout, itis now time to change the conversation.By publicly changing your conduct, you can project an image of a more advancedand mature brand than before the crisis situation occurred. A campaign designedto highlight good works and corporate social responsibility will demonstrategrowth and help to restore the public trust.Corporate social responsibility or CSR is a very popular concept in the marketingand communications industry today. While thinking strategically, you want tomake sure that your efforts are still regarded as authentic and sincere withoutappearing forged – leading to further damage of your reputation and insultingyour publics.Use the following template to brainstorm PR campaign strategies that willdemonstrate the reverse of what people are saying about you right now.While a natural disaster or a crashing stock market are situations that arecompletely out of your control, diligently following the advice given in thishandbook and taking responsibility for filling out the templates provided, will helpgive you perspective, challenge your current mode of conduct, and alert you topossible dangers.Always remember that proactive issues management is the most effective way toavoid a crisis scenario, keeping you moving in the right direction.   90 
  91. 91. CSR brainstorming satellite   Current public perception  91 
  92. 92. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared? Appendix Budgetary evaluationItem Dept. Projected Actual Difference Approved by: total total   92 
  93. 93. Item Dept. Projected Actual Difference Approved by: total total     93 
  94. 94. Crisis Communications Handbook Are You Prepared?Item Dept. Projected Actual Difference Approved by: total total   94