By Dominic Cockram
“But we deal with crises every day!”
If I had a pound for every time I heard this phrase… It usually follows my suggestion that an in-house PR team would benefit from putting together a crisis communications plan so that there are some procedures, processes and team structure in place, so they’d be prepared for when a real crisis hit them.
Cue: “We don’t need one. We know what to do.”
Sadly, however, time and time again they are proved wrong. What they are dealing with “every day” is business as usual in the communications world: the management of issues and the rubs of daily corporate life. Many simply do not realise the depth of impact a true crisis has on an organisation – and by a ‘true’ crisis we mean one that requires management on an operational, as well as reputational, level. Managing a situation of this nature requires extraordinary resources, and there is often very little breathing space or time to react.
Unfortunately – and dangerously – Comms Teams often underestimate the scale and scope of a true crisis and refuse to prepare properly for it. This is perhaps why so many large organisations do so spectacularly badly in crisis communications when they manage their day to day communications extremely well (see our blog post on G4S for starters).
Whenever a Communications Team is involved in one of our crisis simulation exercises, they begin to realise just what they will face: a genuine crisis will devour their time, resource and life to an unprecedented extent. It is often at this point that the importance of slick, well thought out processes, roles and clear responsibilities becomes apparent.
Effective pre-planning will mean that:
• You have all the documentation you are likely to need at your fingertips
• The value of each and every team member is maximised
• The amount of time you need to spend giving direction and guidance is reduced, allowing you to focus on other vital tasks and decisions
When a crisis hits, the last thing you want to do is to start trying to find out information, issue instructions, and build material that could have been done in the relatively calm, quite waters of every day business.
A crisis is unlike any other form of communication event, and being at the eye of the storm is never good without a map or a compass!