Crisis Communications. Issues Management.
Crisis Communications. Issues Management.

There are a plethora of practical things to do to be ready in the event of a crisis. So get your notebook out and let’s go through the crises preparedness checklist to make sure your organization has a way to get those ducks in a row.

First, let’s take a big step back …maybe even in time…and start your crises preparedness with a management and Board discussion. Schedule an hour annually to talk about “what if?” and “how would we respond?” and “what would we do?” Remember to leave time to address the legal, moral and ethical implications in your discussions and not just the tactical considerations.

Likewise, it’s ideal if you have a media-trained, interview-ready spokesperson and alternate prior to the need for someone to be in the harsh spotlight of a crisis. Ask the public relations agency you normally work with if they can provide a general media awareness workshop for your management team and Board, as well as the one-on-one media training your CEO will need to be at his or her best in front of a camera. Annual media training (at least) is optimal. Like everything else, being a good spokesperson only results from regular practice and rehearsals before the ‘big event.’

Organize the consultants and subject matter experts you might need including outside legal counsel, crisis communications specialists, emergency managers, IT and other experts.   Assign the responsibility for the creation and regular maintenance of this list.

Have your IT department prepare or update your ‘dark’ website. This would take the place of your regular website in case of a crisis and could include things like a toll-free number for victims to call, information for families or customers and space for a brief message. It’s a quick means of providing up-to-the-minute information as the crisis unfolds. A dark website is particularly useful if your own website has been hacked.

Make sure your contact lists are up-to-date. Assign this responsibility so when you need to be in touch with all employees, suppliers, WorksafeBC, relevant government agencies and media, you are confident you can reach those who need to know.

Prepare holding statements for all media platforms including the social media channels your organization regularly uses, as well as for emailing employees, suppliers, traditional media and government agencies as needed.

Finally, if you don’t have it in place, consider a media monitoring and issues management program to provide you with information about potential crises and current perspectives on issues relevant to your organization. Assign this responsibility as well as put in place a system of regular reporting to Board and management. The organizations that have robust media monitoring and good issues management are often well-prepared for crises and the very best of them are sometimes even able to avoid a crisis altogether by managing challenges early and thoughtfully.