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New Year's Resolution - Be ready for that possible crisis

28 December 2016

One thing that many businesses found towards the end of 2016 was that a crisis can strike out of the blue without warning. I’m obviously talking about earthquakes, but crises can take many forms.

They can be the death of staff, data breaches, staff bullying accusation, embezzlement or a myriad of other possibilities. What stands out for you? Do you hold confidential information? Are you responsible for a group of people? Or is it something else that could damage your reputation if it happened.

What should you do?

The first thing you must do is brainstorm what could go wrong. Get a group of people together for this because there could well be scenarios you hadn’t even considered.

Once you’ve done this, you need to determine who you would need to contact if it happened. Lot’s of crisis responses come unstuck purely because people don’t have the details they need to contact important stakeholders. This could be staff, next of kin, suppliers and even the news media.

It’s then time to make sure you have multiple ways of contacting them. This could include email, text, a text messaging system, while all of this should be directing them back to the home page of your website. If you are a larger company, you may have a ‘dark website’ all ready and waiting to be your business window if crisis strikes.

Other things to think about are, “Where will you hold reporters if they arrive at work”? “How will you keep them away from other emotional stakeholders such as staff or family members of staff”?

Also, where will you address media? (because most of the time you look either guilty or uncaring if you don’t) and do you know how to master media interviews and keep out of trouble?

It’s also sensible to have media statements all ready to send out on these scenarios, even if they just say you’re aware of the situation and will be doing all you can to sort it out. A statement of empathy if there are victims is also vital. Having pre-written statements like this ready is usually the only way to get into the first media story about the crisis. The alternative is a sentence saying, “The CEO refused to comment,” which looks bad.

Depends on what you do

This is a very basic rundown of a crisis communication plan. The extent of your  plan will depend on the nature of your business and how high the stakes are if something goes wrong. If you are small and there is little that could go wrong, you can probably do it yourself by following the advice above.

But if you are bigger, and can identify things that could severely damage your reputation, you need to take action and get help. An insurance policy on your reputation is just as important as the insurance policy you have against fire or burglary.

And regardless of your situation, if you are a leader of any sort, you should be ready to talk to reporters. A good way to get started on this  is to download my free White Paper, “5 Steps to pain-free media interviews at this link.

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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