In spite of our best efforts crises will happen. What separates success from failure is preparedness. Example:Heat emergency crisis plan. The city of Boston is a huge corporation that provides many vital services to the residents in exchange for real estate and sales taxes. It services are it’s products. Being prepared to aid seniors and others when heat waves hit the city involves many many different departments within the city - explain
The best and most strategic way an organization can prepare itself for crises is to build a highly skilled and responsive crisis team. The team should be considered important and valuable by the Board of Directors and by the CEO and senior executive team. It should be made up of leaders and experts from every department that interfaces or produces products for the public
Crisis management is a process designed to prevent or lessen the damage a crisis can inflict on an organization and its stakeholders. As a process, crisis management is not just one thing. Crisis management can be divided into three phases: (1) pre-crisis, (2) crisis response, and (3) post-crisis. The pre-crisis phase is concerned with prevention and preparation. The crisis response phase is when management must actually respond to a crisis. The post-crisis phase looks for ways to better prepare for the next crisis and fulfills commitments made during the crisis phase including follow-up information and begins to restore brand/reputation.
Pre-Crisis Phase Prevention involves seeking to reduce known risks that could lead to a crisis. This is part of an organization’s risk management program. Preparation involves Selecting and training the crisis management team Conducting risk assessment department by department Creating the crisis management plan, Conducting exercises to test the crisis management plan and crisis management team. Both Barton (2001) and Coombs (2006) document that organizations are better able to handle crises when they (1) have a crisis management plan that is updated at least annually, (2) have a designated crisis management team, (3) conduct exercises to test the plans and teams at least annually, and (4) pre-draft some crisis messages. The planning and preparation allow crisis teams to react faster and to make more effective decisions. Refer to Barton’s (2001) Crisis in Organizations II or Coombs’ (2006) Code Red in the Boardroom for more information on these four lessons.. Pre-*****Pre-draft select crisis management messages including content for dark web sites and templates for crisis statements. Have the legal department review and pre-approve these messages.
Start with selecting and then training your crisis management teamTo be truly effective your team should be representative of your organization
Members: CEO may participate and lead the team or he or she may appoint a member of the senior management team to act as his or her liaison. This person is often the COO or the CFO. This is the person who most often serves as the team leader and is responsible for “the big picture” of the organization in simulations and in real time. I have found that involving a member of the board as an active member of the team provides valuable input and provides a very important link to the decision makers who are also spokesperson of credibility to shareholders and other stakeholders. Legal Counsel and/or his or her delegate, the CFO, an attorney who can be inside or outside council is your resident expert on the federal, state, and local laws and regulations affecting your organization, the attorney will also serve a reviewer of all messages with an eye toward reducing legal exposure and liability. The chief communication strategist should represent and coordinate all of the communications functions within an organization. This person is ultimately responsible for developing the messages, deciding upon the most appropriate messengers and training these folks and deciding the best vehicles to reach each audience. Public affairs manager usually oversees the contact between external non-media audiences such as state and federal regulators, city departments and in some cases NPOs.
It is very important from both the proactive and reactive viewpoint to have your organization’s experts on the team. They may not have the big picture perspective but they are essential when your team is performing risk assessment (they know where the bodies are buried!) and/or when your crisis response demands technical expertise. All members of your team will need media training on a regular basis but your technical experts may require more because often these folks are not experienced with dealing with the media and or other public audiences.
There are many titles used in organization for this position e.g. SVP for Communications, Public Relations Director but whatever it is called this is the person responsible for coordinating all of the messages that go out to all all audiences both internal to the organization and external to the organization. Keep in mind, they may or may not be the spokesperson to any or all audiences but they are the person responsible for approving and coordinating all message delivery. They work closely with all of the members of the crisis team and often serve as the team coordinator or facilitator. Depending upon the size and makeup of the organization they often serve as the crisis team leader with their authority coming directly from the CEO or if the CEO is the problem from the Board of Directors. Most often the mistakes that organizations make when they are experiencing a crisis are the results of:Someone spoke without authorization (MIT Scott Crewgar EXAMPLE)Someone presented incorrect data or misspoke based on faulty information (NPR Congresswoman Gifford’s death)Made things worse by not understanding the key elements of communication namely what to do to whom by whom by what means and by when(Tony Hayward – I want my life back)
Human Resources also knows where the “bodies are buried” They are essentially in helping to understand crises that are the result of employee misbehavior, labor actions, or any other issues that involve employees. Since most crises involve employees at some level the input from HR is essential. They can also guide the team in understanding what can and cannot be said about employees. It is their job to understand the “fine print” in employee relations, union contracts, and organization policy. Think of how often in a crisis you hear the spokesperson say “ it is against our policy to discuss XXX regarding our employees” Your HR leader usually has the closest ties and relationships with labor representatives and your legal counsel. And as said before – they know where the “bodies are buried” so they are very valuable when the team begins its risk assessment work. HR is the keeper of salary and highly confidential information.
Conduct risk assessment department by departmentStep one: ask each team member to make a list of all of the known and potential risks in their departments. *Most crisis are the result of problems not being attended to or safety issues being disregarded. Shortly, we will look at a tool to help prioritize risks. Identifying risks is only the first step. The goal is to eliminate as many risks as possible as quickly as possible. For those risks that will take longer to eliminate, the team should develop plans to mitigate the impact until the risks can be eliminated.A review of most crises clearly demonstrates the need to identify smoldering issues and eliminate them ASAP. Very few crises come out of the blue.
Make a list of all the dangers your team has identified that the organization may face that could:Disrupt normal operationsCause financial harm to the organizationsDamage the organizations reputationHurt relationships with key stakeholdersPlace employees, stakeholders, clients at risk“Organizational skeletons in the closet”During this process the team must be committed to total honesty. The CEO and the senior leadership team need to set the tone and assure the team the they will be rewarded for uncovering smoldering issues. Blame and/or fear of retribution can block the effectiveness of this process.Smart organizations are always involved in this process because new threats and risks are always on the horizon.
Now it is time to prioritize or rank your planning crisis needs. It is likely that your team will have a list of potential crises but it is important to determine which ones pose the greatest threat.To make this determination this grid is very helpful. You will assign two numbers to each potential crisis the team has identified. First number – estimate on a scale of 1-10 the probability that such a crisis could occur e.g.: if your location is Boston the possibility of a blizzard is very highSecond number - estimate on a scale of 1 -10 the impact each crisis would have on your organization/company operations. Take the example of the blizzard in Boston – Boston is better prepared for dealing with a blizzard than Washington DCPlot each potential crisis on the grid Those in the sections above the line have a greater probability and/or impact and should be your highest planning priorities. Those that fall below the line have lower impact and/or probability still need to be dealt with but are lower planning priorities.Rank your planning crisis needs. It is likely that your team will have a list of potential crises but it is important to determine which ones pose the greatest threat.To make this determination this grid is very helpful. You will assign two numbers to each potential crisis the team has identified. First number – estimate on a scale of 1-10 the probability that such a crisis could occur e.g.: if your location is Boston the possibility of a blizzard is very highSecond number - estimate on a scale of 1 -10 the impact each crisis would have on your organization/company operations. Take the example of the blizzard in Boston – Boston is better prepared for dealing with a blizzard than Washington DCPlot each potential crisis on the grid Those in the sections above the line have a greater probability and/or impact and should be your highest planning priorities. Those that fall below the line have lower impact and/or probability still need to be dealt with but are lower planning priorities.
There are literally thousands of potential crises that can injure or even destroy an organization. Most crises fall into one of three categories namely:Most crises fall into one of three categories namely:Negatively impact peopleNegatively impact financial conditionsNegatively impact organization’s reputationOn a white board put each of these categories and then, with your team, decide which category each risk falls under. The rank your risks from most to least damaging under each category.
The next step is to Develop action plans to eliminate dangers before they become problems. Ways to do that include: Independent audit Board oversight Computer backup Alternate location for staff to conduct business Pay attention to “smoldering issues”Now we are ready to apply SWOT to each potential risk going in order of high impact, high probability.
A SWOT analysis is a tool to help an organization recognize its capacity in light of positive and negative situations. The crisis team employs SWOT to help mitigate the impact of risks that cannot be eliminated in the immediate or near future.
Prepare a swot on each risk. Label a flip chart for each category; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threat. It is important that this work be done by the whole team to encourage team work and honesty.Next, advise participants to use the rules of brainstorming as a guide to their discussion (there are no bad ideas, all ideas are respected and recorded, active listening is encouraged, and talking over is discouraged)Then set a time limit (usually 20-30 minutes) per category.
Next:Review each list for each category before moving on to the next categoryPrioritize: this is the point at which you can discuss and make decisions about which entries are the most importantSelect and record the prioritized entries from each category
QuestionsStrengths: what advantages do we have, what do we do well, what resources do we have access to that will helpwhat do other people see as our strengths
Weaknesses:what could we improvewhat do we do badlywhat should we avoidwhat disadvantages to we havewhat resources do we lack
Opportunities:what is happening in the world around us that we can take advantage ofwhat trends might work for uswhat is going on around us that we can build onhow can this benefit us in the near and long termwhat ripple effect is possible
After completing the SWOT the team decides: 1. which risks can be eliminated and develops plans to do so2. which risks cannot be completely eliminated but by taking certain steps/ planning (such as a pump or back up electrical system) the impact can be minimized
This template is intended to get you started. Remember crisis management plans are as unique as your business and needs to be tailored to fit your needs.
The crisis plan outlines how your company will deal with the crisis at hand to minimize loss and downtown.Contact information should include all phone numbers, fax number and email addresses (remember crisis tend to happen after work hours so make sure you have contact information for your team members where they live and play) Blueprints of key facilities so that emergency responders know where and how to access your facilities. These blueprints should include information about any toxic chemicals, or other important features. Names, email addresses and phone numbers of key news media who cover your organization locally and in the trade press Including fire, police, trauma specialists, etc Location of rooms in each facility that could be turned into a crisis center to include: copying machines, fax, email, phones (cell and land)Please review Samples of plans
In the beginning it is best to conduct simulations at least quarterly and you may want to use some of the “smoldering issues” that you have uncovered as simulation situations. You can also use situations that have happened to your competitors – this often results in uncovering similar potential crisis in your organization
Now we move onto to the crisis phase and in particular how we communicate in a crisis – for the remainder of our time together, we will focus on how we communicate during and after a crisis. Needless to say, we should be using social media to engage our audiences and build support and brand loyalty long before a crisis strikes us.
Content – do you want to convey a fact, an opinion, speculation, defense, and position?How much information do your audiences have about you and the situation? How much background information do they need? (Position papers, policies, past practices, proceduresIf fact make sure to back it up with proofIf opinion or speculation use an expert and make sure audience knows that this is not fact.
Be quick -provide a response in the first hour after the crisis occurs. ( the value of preparation and templates) The rationale behind being quick is the need for the organization to tell its side of the story. In reality, the organization’s side of the story are the key points management wants to convey about the crisis to its stakeholders. When a crisis occurs, people want to know what happened. As a result, crisis managers must have a quick response. An early response may not have much “new” information but the organization positions itself as a source and begins to present its side of the story. A quick response is active and shows an organization is in control. Crisis preparation will make it easier for crisis managers to respond quickly. Obviously accuracy is important anytime an organization communicates with publics. People want accurate information about what happened and how that event might affect them. Because of the time pressure in a crisis, there is a risk of inaccurate information. If mistakes are made, they must be corrected. However, inaccuracies make an organization look inconsistent. Incorrect statements must be corrected making an organization appear to be incompetent. The philosophy of speaking with one voice in a crisis is a way to maintain accuracy. Speaking with one voice does not mean only one person speaks for the organization for the duration of the crisis. It is physically impossible to expect one person to speak for an organization if a crisis lasts for over a day. The news media want to ask questions of experts so they may need to talk to a person in operations or one from security. That is why it is often suggested that the public relations department plays more of a support role rather than being “the” crisis spokespersons. The crisis team needs to share information so that different people can still convey a consistent message. The spokespersons should be briefed on the same information and the key points the organization is trying to convey in the messages. The public relations department should be instrumental in preparing the spokespersons. Ideally, potential spokespersons are trained and practice media relations skills prior to any crisis. The focus during a crisis then should be on the key information to be delivered rather than how to handle the media. Once more preparation helps by making sure the various spokespersons have the proper media relations training and skills.Quickness and accuracy play an important role in public safety. When public safety is a concern, people need to know what they must do to protect themselves. Instructing information must be quick and accurate to be useful. For instance, people must know as soon as possible not to eat contaminated foods or to shelter-in-place during a chemical release. A slow or inaccurate response can increase the risk of injuries and possibly deaths. Quick actions can also save money by preventing further damage and protecting reputations by showing that the organization is in control. However, speed is meaningless if the information is wrong. Inaccurate information can increase rather than decrease the threat to public safety.
Use news media, web sites, Intranet sites, and mass notification systems to help to provide a quick response. Crisis managers can supply greater amounts of their own information on a web site. Not all targets will use the web site but enough do to justify the inclusion of web-base communication in a crisis response. Taylor and Kent’s (2007) extensive analysis of crisis web sites over a multiyear period found a slow progression in organizations utilizing web sites and the interactive nature of the web during a crisis. Mass notification systems deliver short messages to specific individuals through a mix of phone, text messaging, voice messages, and e-mail. The systems also allow people to send responses. In organizations with effective Intranet systems, the Intranet is a useful vehicle for reaching employees as well. If an organization integrates its Intranet with suppliers and customers, these stakeholders can be reached as well. As the crisis management effort progresses, the channels can be more selective Crisis experts recommend a third component to an initial crisis response, crisis managers should express concern/sympathy for any victims of the crisis. Victims are the people that are hurt or inconvenienced in some way by the crisis. Victims might have lost money, become ill, had to evacuate, or suffered property damage. Expressions of concern help to lessen reputational damage and to reduce financial losses. Some studies found that organizations did experience less reputational damage when an expression of concern is offered verses a response lacking an expression of concern. Recent studies conducted by the health care industry found early expressions of concern help to reduce the number and amount of claims made against an organization for the crisis. There is a caution - Lawyers may try to use expressions of concern as admissions of guilt. A number of states have laws that protect expressions of concern from being used against an organization. Remember your expression of concern must be genuine or it will hurt you more than it will help. Crisis managers should never forget employees are important publics during a crisis. The Business Roundtable (2002) and Corporate Leadership Council (2003) remind us that employees need to know what happened, what they should do, and how the crisis will affect them. Research suggests that well informed employees provide an additional channel of communication for reaching other stakeholders. When the crisis results in serious injuries or deaths, crisis management must include stress and trauma counseling for employees and other victims. One illustration is the trauma teams dispatched by airlines following a plane crash. The trauma teams address the needs of employees as well as victims’ families. Crisis managers must consider how the crisis stress might affect the employees, victims, and their families. Organizations must provide the necessary resources to help these groups cope. We can take a specific set of both form and content lessons from the writing on the initial crisis response.
Crisis experts often talk of an information vacuum being created by a crisis. The news media will lead the charge to fill the information vacuum and be a key source of initial crisis information. If the organization having the crisis does not speak to the news media, other people will be happy to talk to the media. These people may have inaccurate information or may try to use the crisis as an opportunity to attack the organization. As a result, crisis managers must have a quick response. An early response may not have much “new” information but the organization positions itself as a source and begins to present its side of the story. The news media are drawn to crises and are a useful way to reach a wide array of publics quickly. So it is logical that crisis response research has devoted considerable attention to media relations. Media relations allows crisis managers to reach a wide range of stakeholders fast. Fast and wide ranging is perfect for public safety—get the message out quickly and to as many people as possible. Clearly there is waste as non-targets receive the message but speed and reach are more important at the initial stage of the crisis.
Media Interviews: Preparation Is the Key to SuccessYou have undoubtedly found yourself at the business end of a reporter’s notebook or camera by now. If not, you will soon. While some people thrive on giving interviews, others find it to be a less pleasant part of their job. But regardless of your feelings, it is a skill that should be mastered. How your key audiences perceive your organization/business and its successes may depend at least in part on media reports.The keys to a good interview are preparation and knowledge. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself (or your spokesperson) into before you agree to the interview. Always gets an idea of the types of questions the reporter will ask before you agree to an interview. The most important guidelines for interviewing Be positiveBe preparedBe coolBe conversational And most importantly be who you are!
Prepare your sound bites and run them by your colleagues to make sure they work.Don’t wait for questions directly related to your messages. Bridge to them by saying, “The real point is…” or “We must focus on…” or even “That’s not the real issue…” And then get your three messages in. You must judge the success of any interview by whether or not you conveyed your three messages at least once. You don’t have to answer every question – you can bridge to one of your messages or if you do not know the answer say soListen and look and sound like you are listening and are engagedUse the interviewer’s name when addressing him or herLanguage is important – avoid jargon or insider language. It will alienate your audience
Even when you are being put on the defensive, assume an offensive position by stating and supporting your messages and premises Explain, prove and support your messagesNever underestimate the power of expert opinion and quotes from someone who is directly related to your issue
Try to repeat your message three times
Communicating in crisis summer 2011
COMMUNICATING IN A CRISISIT TAKES A TEAM TO MAKE IT WORK
WORDS TO REMEMBER “We need to get people to understand that in our society, it’s not a question of if a crisis will occur during your career, it’s when”Dr. Alan FriedmanPsychologist
BUILD IT BEFORE THE CRISIS “Crisis management in organizations should involve all departments that touch the public”Laurence Barton
PHASES OF CRISIS MANAGEMENT Pre-crisis Crisis response Post-crisis
PRE-CRISIS ACTIVITIES Select and train the crisis management team Seek to identify and reduce known risks Create the crisis management plan Conduct simulations Update plan often
SELECTING AND TRAINING THE CRISISMANAGEMENT TEAM Representatives from a cross section of the organization and should Include managerial and technical skills Understand every aspect of the organization Have the support of senior management Include member(s) of the board of directors
DEVELOPING YOUR CRISIS TEAM Start with the CEO Make sure all departments that touch the public are represented on the crisis team including the board of directors
MEMBERS OF THE TEAM CEO CFO Board Chair & Legal Counsel Senior Management Public Relations/Public Affairs/Advertising/Investor Relations/Government Relations/Consumer Affairs Human Resources
EXPERTS IN YOUR ORGANIZATION Technical Operations What you do (product lines) Where you do it (locations & facilities)
PUBLIC RELATIONS Serves as central coordinator for all proactive and reactive communications with all internal and external audiences
HUMAN RESOURCES Guides team in all issues regarding personnel Often serves as spokesperson to internal audiences May serve as liaison with labor unions
CONDUCT RISK ASSESSMENT department by department
IDENTIFY DANGERSMake a list of all the dangers the organization may face that could: Disrupt normal operations Cause financial harm to the organizations Damage the organizations reputation Hurt relationships with key stakeholders Place employees, stakeholders, clients at risk “Organizational skeletons in the closet”
CRISIS PLOTTING GRIDLow impact High impactHigh probability High probabilityLow impact High impactLow probability Low probability
ORGANIZE THREATS INTO CATEGORIES IMPACT PEOPLE IMPACT FINANCIAL CONDITIONS IMPACT REPUTATION (BRAND)
DETERMINE WHAT POTENTIAL DANGERS CANBE ELIMINATED Develop action plans to eliminate dangers before they become problems. Independent audit Board oversight Computer backup Alternate location for staff to conduct business Pay attention to “smoldering issues”
4 ELEMENTS OF SWOT Strengths: What strengths does the company have if this risk occurs? Weaknesses: What are things that will make the situation worse?
ELEMENTS Opportunities What external advantages do we have? Threats What external disadvantages do we have?
HOW TO USE A SWOT ANALYSIS Label a flip chart for each category Advise participants to use the rules of brainstorming as a guide to their discussion Set a time limit (usually 20-30 minutes) per category
HOW TO USE A SWOT ANALYSISCONTINUED Review each list for each category before moving on to the next category Prioritize: this is the point at which you can discuss and make decisions about which entries are the most important Select and record the prioritized entries from each category
QUESTIONS TO HELP GUIDE THEDISCUSSION Strengths: what advantages do we have, what do we do well, what resources do we have access to that will help what do other people see as our strengths
QUESTIONS TO HELP GUIDE THEDISCUSSION Weaknesses: what could we improve what do we do badly what should we avoid what disadvantages to we have what resources do we lack
QUESTIONS TO HELP GUIDE THEDISCUSSION Opportunities: what is happening in the world around us that we can take advantage of what trends might work for us what is going on around us that we can build on how can this benefit us in the near and long term what ripple effect is possible
QUESTIONS TO HELP GUIDE THEDISCUSSION Threats: what obstacles do we face what is the competition doing can any of our weaknesses seriously threaten us (cash flow, staffing) what is changing in the world around us that could hurt us and make our crisis worse
ELEMENTS Contact information for CMT Blueprints for key facilities Media contacts 24/7 responder numbers Crisis centers
CONDUCT SIMULATIONS Test team Test plan Uncover potential crisis
CRISIS PHASE How to communicate during a crisis Tools to use Communications Plan Media Relations Social Media
ELEMENTS FOR CONSIDERATION Audience (s) Goal Messages & Messengers Vehicle Spokesperson Support and Opposition Feedback
AUDIENCESCOVER ALL THE BASES how best to reach them, what to say, who should say it, who else they are listening to (opinion leaders) and how to get honest feedback about how you did and what else needs to be done to reestablish the good name of your organization.
GOALS Set a goal for each audience Goals must be Measurable Doable Clearly defined
MESSENGER(S) Who is the most appropriate contact? for first contact for follow up contact
MESSENGER Must be credible Must be available Must be interested and interesting People listen to people
VEHICLE(S) Questions to ask: Is it efficient Is it effective Is it sensitive and respectful Is it available Will it help me reach my audience in time
TONE AND CONTENT What tone do you want to use? Urgent Angry Apologetic Confident Upbeat
MESSAGE(S) What happened? How did it happen? What are we going to do about it? What are we doing to make sure it will never happen again?
MESSAGE BOX Value Vision Misconception Message Message Ask
ABOVE ALL Tell the truth and tell it quickly. Apologize and make amends. If you are right say so and prove it.
SUPPORT AND OPPOSITION Know the lay of the land. Who will most likely support you? Who will be opposed to you and why? Who will run and hide? Who are your friends in the media?
GUIDELINES FOR CRISIS RESPONSE Be quick and try to have initial response within the first hour. Be accurate by carefully checking all facts. Be consistent by keeping spokespeople informed of crisis events and key message points. Make public safety the number one priority.
GUIDELINES CONTINUED Use all of the available communication channels including the Internet, Intranet, and mass notification systems. Provide some expression of concern/sympathy for victims Remember to include employees in the initial response. Be ready to provide stress and trauma counseling to victims of the crisis and their families, including employees.
MEDIA RELATIONS As an audience Fill the information vacuum As a vehicle Tell your side of the story
TOOLS TO USE Media Release Statements Position (White) Papers Media Kits Media Conferences One on one interviews & exclusives Web casting Blogs Newsletters
SPOKESPERSON (S) How to decide on the best spokesperson What is the severity of the crisis Who has the most accurate and up to date information Who is media trained Who is available Who is emotionally capable
MEDIA INTERVIEWS What is a good interview? Positive exchange of information Be prepared Be cool Be conversational Be yourself
QUESTIONS TO ASK What are we talking about? What is my role? When is your deadline? How much do you know about me? Who is in charge?
BEFORE SAYING YES, ASK YOURSELF Who is the intended audience? Is this my audience? Is this a media I want to be associated with? Who is the best person? What are the benefits? What happens if I say no? What will make me comfortable?
GETTING READY Arrive early Plant ideas Only three messages Use clear, concise language Be emphatic Don’t bluff Use real people and real stories
CONCEPTS & PRINCIPLES Sound bites Bridging Don’t be a slave to the question Listen Connect with the interviewer Language
ON THE OFFENSIVESupport Messages and Premises Examples Statistics Analogies Expert Opinion Quotes From Another Personal Experience
KEY STRATEGIES Rule of Three’s Be Prepared If Past Go Future If General Go Specific If Specific Go General Silence is Your Friend
FOR TELEVISION INTERVIEWS Know what to expect Look directly at the interviewer Be expressive Wear bright colors Be conservative on jewelry Don’t be a wash out If you need glasses, wear them
AFTER THE INTERVIEW Ask for a critique Listen and learn Send thank you note Stay in touch Educate rather than blame Give your work legs
FEEDBACK Go back and ask: Did we identify every audience? Where our goals clearly stated? Did we achieve our goals? Did our message reflect our goals? Was our tone correct?
FEEDBACK CONTINUED Did we use the most efficient and effective vehicles for each audience? Did we know all of the players? Did we seek support and were we aware of opposition? Are we asking the right questions? And most important, how did we as a team function ?
KEY TO SUCCESS Be accurate, be honest, be timely, be thorough, and above all don’t take it personally.