Crisis Communications

Active shooter? Employee injury? Facility disaster? Whether it is a disgruntled employee or a natural disaster, a crisis can happen to the best of companies.

Definition of a Crisis
A crisis is an unexpected or unanticipated situation that has the potential to have a real or perceived negative impact on the reputation of a company and its brand. A crisis can be large or small. It can impact the entire organization or just an isolated portion.

A crisis can result from a natural disaster, or man-made event, accident or conflict. It can be caused by either internal or external forces.

During a crisis, quick decisions are required. To be able to effectively communicate in the time of a crisis can be as critical as the crisis itself. "Winging it," will not be in any company’s best interest.

If you take the time, you will likely be able to think of a few companies that poorly handled their communications in a crisis. The outcomes that come from poor or unprepared communications in a crisis can often be devastating to a company's reputation, as well as its long-term success.

To protect your employees, assets and company reputation, it is critical to have a crisis communications plan and protocol in place before a crisis happens. It can mean the difference between clearly communicating the right information or jeopardizing your reputation.

Preparing for a Crisis
Before you begin preparing for a crisis, you need to build a crisis team. The team should consist of select members from your leadership, legal, human resources, finance, IT, safety and communications teams. Once you have your team in place, the planning process involves several steps, including thinking through possible situations that could be considered a crisis at your company and determining command center locations. Crisis preparedness also includes developing a procedural checklist and an emergency communications hierarchy for stakeholders and key audiences.

There are five basic steps to follow in a crisis.

  • Verify the crisis
  • Notify your crisis team
  • Manage the crisis
  • Approve and deliver messages
  • Monitor and provide feedback

To verify the crisis, you will need to know who, what, when, where and how it happened, as well as what actions are being taken to manage the crisis. Immediately writing down the details using a crisis intake form, will assist you in gathering important information you need to share with your crisis team.

There are protocols you can plan for to notify your crisis team and manage the crisis. Your team will determine what information needs to be shared, and with whom, and how you will disseminate this information. The team also will have protocols to properly monitor the crisis and provide any additional updates as the situation unfolds.

In 2015, Alexandria Industries went through a lengthy process to develop a crisis communications plan and get trained on managing our organization through a crisis.

While we cannot predict if, or when, a crisis will happen, we now feel fully prepared to handle one. We have put preventative measures in place to help avoid a crisis, while we hope we never have to use our planned crisis communications processes.

For more information about how to develop a crisis plan and train your leadership, please contact Cindy Frederick (320) 762-7630, or Patty Hoffman (320) 762-7691.