Know That When Crisis Strikes …
… it is a time of high emotion and confusion. Initially you will lack accurate information but will need to act and communicate swiftly. In such situations, being able to rely on processes and training will enable you and the crisis management team to act calmly and with purpose.
By Failing To Prepare, You Are Preparing To Fail
Establish a Crisis Management Team (CMT). It should be a cross-functional group responsible for providing overall strategic guidance, decision-making and executing the crisis management response.
Practice and train. Effective crisis management is the result of constant preparation, planning and practice that test decision making skills, processes and people. At least once a year, run a crisis simulation. This is a one day or half day facilitated exercise that tests all aspects of your crisis preparedness. Working through a realistic scenario under pressure is an invaluable way to assess the strengths and rectify weaknesses within the crisis response and Crisis Management Team members.
Organise resources and facilities, information materials, contact lists and check lists NOW. They are very difficult to do mid-crisis.
Draft checklists for the CMT and each position and any sub-team, along with what resources are needed – personal equipment, team equipment and contracted support – and how to access them.
Assign people to their roles. Pick the right person for the right job – not only the required skills and knowledge but their aptitude and ability to handle a stressful situation. Audit and refine leadership skills including ‘soft’ skills like team-working through coaching.
Your Crisis Management Team
As a minimum your CMT will include: a leader; your legal adviser who may need to liaise with any regulators; an operations person who has detailed understanding of the thing that has gone wrong; an internal and external communications adviser; an HR representative who can also lead on assisting affected staff and families; someone who can liaise with the emergency services and external authorities; an IT representative especially if the crisis is data breach; and at least one efficient administrator who should take notes, log and keep track of action items and responsibilities, and manage practicalities like food/ transportation/ accommodation for the CMT.
The CMT leader should enable not dictate. They should be clear what the end-goal of a crisis well-managed will look like and energise the team to accomplish it. They should encourage discussion and debate to ensure that important matters receive consideration. They keep the CMT moving forward, guide the members toward decisions which have broad support but both have the authority and take the final decisions. Plan for a designated alternate to take over if the primary leader is unavailable.
CMT members act as advocates for their own area of responsibility, gather information on that area and make sure that the CMT understands all the relevant impacts. But they should recognise when other areas or issues take priority. They may lead or direct the recovery or actions in their area.
Establish A Crisis Management Centre (CMC)
You should have identified a room(s) where the CMT can operate during a crisis – and an alternative location should your space be inaccessible for whatever reason.
It should be in a secure location which cannot be overlooked or easily accessed by journalists/ demonstrators.
It should be accessible 24 hours a day and in such a place that the team will be able to manage the crisis without affecting, or being affected by, the normal management of the business.
It is essential that press calls are not made or received within the main CMC room: these calls disrupt planning and there is a risk of journalists overhearing confidential or unconfirmed information. Plan a separate venue for briefings/press conferences should they become necessary.
The CMC room should contain:
- Multiple power points and telephone lines with direct line speaker-phones for each
- Consider storing (charged) satellite phones should a situation disrupt the mobile phone network
- High quality telephone or video conferencing capability (with instructions for use)
- Strong mobile phone signal (and spare chargers for the main mobile phone brands)
- Network connections and wireless internet access
- Projector and screen, printers, laptops (accessing main server but pre-loaded with crisis documentation)
- Televisions and recording devices with access to all main terrestrial and satellite stations
- Large whiteboards and or/ flipcharts, writing pads and materials
- Boardroom table; refreshments; space for materials
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.
As well as being the UK’s largest media training company, working with almost half the FTSE100, Electric Airwaves assesses, prepares and tests organizations to ensure that their crisis communication plans, processes and people can withstand intense media and stakeholder scrutiny and you can emerge stronger from your crisis. For more information, contact Andrew Caesar-Gordon on 020 7323 2770 or firstname.lastname@example.org