Let’s take a break from the intense political happenings of the prior week to a little levity to your news cycle – and perhaps, some useful tips.
Here is the scenario – your team is pretty well prepared for a disaster. You’ve done the drills, have the plans in place, and feel confident that executive leaders have your back. And then, a crisis hits and the pesky communications team comes in and tells you that you cannot share messages that you need to get out ASAP.
Here is the thing about planning – it cannot happen in a silo. Regardless of your role, there is a cross-functional team that needs to be in place for a seamless, well-executed plan. And one of your top partners is the communications team.
Why? Because communicators know your company’s brand, media, leaders, and stakeholders better than anyone. It is their job to communicate in a compelling, concise, compassionate way. They will ensure you have the right level of detail, a way to measure response, and an appropriate tone for the scenario.
The best teams are integrated – with a communications person dedicated to crisis response needs when they happen. That person should be a part of your drills, plans, and decision-making matrix. Because when the crisis hits, that person can help make sure things go quickly and smoothly…they can take down barriers and route approvals like nobody’s business, if they know and trust you.
And, vice versa, a crisis communicator should make it their priority to build a relationship with the crisis management leader and build response plans that are aligned.
Not sure where to start? Here are some tips to become a trusted partner:
- Open the door: Request an opportunity to meet with the designated crisis communicator. If there is not anyone identified, meet with the communications leader and make a case for why there should be someone on his or her team assigned to the crisis.
- Make the case: If you need to make the case for why the company needs a crisis communications contact, there is a long list, but here are a few reasons:
- The trend is that companies need to respond incredibly quickly during an incident.
- That quick response can make things go from bad to worse if it isn’t handled properly.
- Communicators usually own the main channels to communicate – email, internal intranet, media contacts, social media posting – and those might be the channels needed during an incident.
- Pre-planning together is in the best interest of protecting the brand.
- Build trust: A communications person will want to know the who, what, where, and why about planning – so come prepared with a list of the top 10 scenarios that you are planning for, a compelling illustration of the impact if could have on the brand (either examples from peer companies or concern expressed from an executive), and what you need from them. Their job is not to write your Powerpoint presentation or proofread your crisis plan. They can help with:
- A guide for approvals or identify a leader that can approve quickly in an incident
- Mapping out key messages – from holding statements to specific scenarios so that you are ready quickly (they can use your top 10 list to prepare)
- A clear plan for how they would use the channels available, a threshold for using them, and buy-in from the channel owners to help in a crisis
- Clear partners that they need in order to make sure information is accurate and doesn’t jeopardize the company. Legal is usually a key partner.
- Be inclusive: Lastly, to continue to build trust, include them in scenario planning and simulations. And offer to be part of their planning too. Going through this will help you both realize where you need to improve planning and how dependent you are on each other.
- Add value: Keep them informed of issues on the horizon – and ask if they can do the same. Since you both keep a pulse on different issues from different sources, they will help you get ahead of issues and realize when something is bubbling up. Soon, a new tool will be announced, Crisis Playbook, which would be a great value for both teams – providing quick, easy and affordable access to crisis plans, including resources for crisis management and communications. Stay tuned for more information.
Remember, when you need a friend, it’s too late to make one.
Can we help you?
Building an effective crisis management framework that incorporates crisis management, crisis communications, and other functions within your firm is what we do here at Bryghtpath.
Bryghtpath has built the crisis management plans and frameworks for many Fortune 500 organizations, non-profits, and public sector agencies. Our firm has more than a century of experience in developing actionable plans to help prepare organizations for the unexpected. Our expertise includes crisis communications and emergency plans/exercises.
Contact us today at +1.612.235.6435 or via our contact form.