Crisis Communications Plans are designed to provide guidance and easy-to-follow steps to support clients in preparation for, management of and after effects of proper crisis communications. Reputation leads to trust, trust leads to valuation.
Effective crisis prevention, identification and communication rely heavily on education, training, professional judgment and experience of the internally formed Crisis Management Team (CMT), which clients learn how to create by following instructions within the plans Fallston Group creates. The CMT’s ability to manage smoldering issues and understand ways in which issues can escalate is essential to effective crisis response and recovery.
Crisis communication is integral in the protection of people, assets and brands. Organizations that wait to respond, hesitate or lack visibility of action create uncertainty and anger – it diminishes marketplace trust. Client CMT’s must efficiently and effectively communicate so others do not fill informational gap created by silence or misinformation. Any employee who is not authorized as a spokesperson should not make statements, comments or declarations internally, externally, to vendors, media, on social media, etc. All employees should direct inquiries to the designated, and trained, primary and secondary spokespeople.
When an emergency occurs, the need to factually communicate is immediate. If client operations are disrupted, all stakeholders will want to know how they will be impacted. Regulators may need to be notified and local government officials will want to know what is going on in their community. Employees and their families will be concerned and want information. Neighbors living near the impacted area may need information—especially if they are threatened by the incident. All of these “audiences” will want information before the organization has a chance to begin communicating. Velocity and accuracy is key – the crisis communications plan facilitates speed and process – organizational muscle memory is created.
A vital component of handling an incident is the crisis communications strategy. Clients must be able to respond promptly, accurately and confidently during emergent circumstances in the seconds, hours, days and weeks that follow. A diverse audience pool must be reached with information specific to their unique interests and needs. Client image will be positively or negatively impacted by public perceptions and the handling of the incident from a leadership, strategy and communications standpoint. Planning is power.
With new technology, it can be the anonymous public who often “break” a crisis. They may also project their feelings and assumptions, making the story the story as well as add details – they are on the lookout for updates. Therefore, unlike earlier eras, the crisis management team cannot afford to simply “manage the media.” Remember, anyone with an internet connection and a recording device can wreak havoc on your brand.
Fallston Group’s mantra is alive and well, “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. And, when someone else tells your story, it certainly won’t be the story you want told.” From a leadership standpoint, you must be ready to meet the moment, the 60 MINUTES moment, if need be. Your legacy depends on it.