Imagine your phone rings, with a reporter asking for your response to “…the incident at…” Or, asking about an incident or lawsuit that has yet to be brought to your attention.
Sooner or later, a crisis will impact your organization. How you respond is critical to successfully navigating media, regulatory and public scrutiny.
Newspapers, TV, Twitter and social media feeds are full of stories about unexpected man-made or natural disaster events. It might be an active shooter at an office building, allegations of scandal, explosion at a manufacturing facility, construction accident or a weather event that draws attention due to damage, serious injury or death. A crisis can surface based on rumor, innuendo or confusion – with the organization rightly or wrongly linked to the situation swept along in a media or online flurry.
While most organizations are required to have written crisis plans, in the heat of the moment it is cumbersome to drag out a large binder to follow an action plan that may not be relevant to the matter at hand.
“We’ve seen a little bit of everything when it comes to crisis response and preparing and updating scenario plans to assure accurate and timely response,” said Donna Ritchey, Senior Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at GodwinGroup. “Regardless of the situation, without a coordinated response, the company brand that’s taken so long to build can suffer greatly – even over the course of a single day. It’s not really about what kind of crisis occurs, but rather having a plan in place to manage the crisis – whatever it may be.”
“When it comes to crisis or issues management it is critical to react quickly and strategically, putting people first and assuring that proper authorities have been notified. Activating resources to handle immediate response, human resources, security and facilities needs, briefing leadership and securing legal counsel are essential. Crisis events tend to have a life cycle: emergency response, investigation, regulatory report, litigation, and ongoing restoration activities. Handled correctly, incidents are in the spotlight only for a short time.”
Ritchey said there’s no way to predict what crisis might occur, but there are proven and effective planning strategies a company can have in place to respond, manage and recover. A good crisis plan provides a general framework that can be quickly adapted and implemented.
“Too often companies rely on dated plans and wait until a crisis hits before trying to pull together response protocols,” she said. “The adage of prior planning prevents poor performance is true. The complexities of crisis response are wide ranging, from who should be notified (and how), internal and external communications, down to detailed guidance for what the receptionist or security guard at the front gate should do when media or protesters show up at the door.
“The size of the written plan matters less than the priorities and policies adopted to guide response,” said Ritchey. “Our experienced team knows how to support clients in crisis situations, bringing a depth of experience to help in response communication to assure that key internal and external stakeholders are kept informed in a timely, accurate manner while remaining sensitive to market and legal-related considerations.”