The X’s and O’s of Crisis Management
by Megan Reichenbach
As we all know, mistakes happen. And sometimes these mistakes lead to detrimental circumstances. Miriam Fry’s article on Platform Magazine, “You’ve got 60 Minutes,” describes a situation where PR practitioners “take the position of the quarterback” when it comes to cleaning up the mess of a controversial situation. But let’s ask ourselves: are the PR practitioners the only ones doing the clean up?
Peter Federico, senior vice president and chief risk officer of American Capitol Agency Management, seems to think otherwise. “Every person in the vicinity of the controversial situation needs to take a stance in rectifying the problem,“ Federico said. “And every person needs to take this stance early in the game.”
From saying the wrong thing during a press conference to a federal takeover of a business, those in the finance and investment markets need to think outside their comfort zones and more like a PR professional. Federico lends a breakdown of what financial and investment companies need to do in order to get back on their feet.
For those of us who are prone to procrastinating, Crisis Management 101 may have to be added to your to-do list. Crisis planning requires steps to be written down beforehand: “it’s basic, but crisis businesses need to follow a play book; otherwise, things will be missed,” Federico said. This preparation goes hand in hand with the tips suggested on the PR Coach website, which asserts “the time to plan, of course, is when there is no crisis.”
The Pre-Crisis: Prologue to the Crisis Playbook 101
Businesses should develop BCP, or business continuity planning. In public relations “layman” terms, this would be the time that all external factors are identified and potential threats are determined.
Everyone in the business, not just those public relations quarterbacks, must come up with actions to take for every type of crisis. Even though we can’t predict every kind of crisis, we all might as well do as much as we can to ready ourselves for whatever comes our way.
“Who is in charge?”
Before the crisis occurs, a company needs to find out who is going to be accountable for whom, and for what controversial situations.
“Who is going to talk to whom?”
This question centers the main responsibility of a PR person: communication. Throughout the hierarchy of a business, every person needs to create relationships and a communication plan with other members in the business. According to Federico, this simple task of relationship building will save a company from becoming defeated by the crisis.
Businesses can’t forget to create a funding plan. Managing a crisis without a hold on the finances of the company would be nearly impossible, wouldn’t you think?
In a tragic situation where a company’s facility has been affected or ruined, a pre-conceived plan for an alternative location to keep business running is fundamental.
Pre-crisis planning also calls for a written list of constituents, including suppliers, investors, regulators, board members, customers, etc. A simple list of names and phone numbers can be the difference between success and failure.
Identify the crisis
During the crisis, the steps listed in the Prologue of Crisis 101 are put to the test.
Believe it or not, the steps taken during the crisis itself are more easily executed than expected, thanks to pre-crisis planning. Once the specific BCP is chosen for the crisis at hand, follow these tips given by Peter Federico:
• Look back at those relationships that were built and come into contact with whoever is in authority.
• Establish the ultimate decision maker.
• Identify the essential employees in the business and designate appropriate responsibilities.
• Ensure that critical systems are operable. Are the phone lines down? Are the computers still functioning?
• Prioritize all decisions that need to be made, and decide at which point these should be executed during the clean up.
• Ensure that all finances are in check. Does the company have the liquidity to maintain all critical operations?
• Develop the internal and external communication plans—so critical. This is the point in which those individuals in the finance and business industry need show off those PR skills.
• Establish a timeline for damage control.
• Establish meetings to be held in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. Communicating the situation at hand to the public is key to saving the reputation of the company.
It all sounds pretty basic, but most businesses take planning for granted.
Communication is key in a crisis. Acting like a PR professional, and taking on the role of relationship building, can make a world of a difference for those companies involved in a crisis. For companies in the financial or investment industry, there are steps taken by individuals who do not, in fact, have a “PR” position in the business. Whether a controversial situation in a PR firm or financial company, all of those individuals working for the organization need to get a handle on Crisis 101.