Crisis Management: Plan Ahead, Don’t Hide Your Head

Gene Carozza

I spent part of last weekend shopping around for new tires for my car, when I saw a huge advertisement for Firestone – buy three, get one free. Sounds like a deal, right? Perhaps, but I quickly passed on the opportunity, largely because I have no trust for Firestone’s products after the fiasco that occurred about 13 years ago.

Is that fair? Have the quality and control measures vastly increased since I owned my Ford Explorer equipped with those tires? Maybe, but the perceptions still linger and aren’t going to change any time soon, at least with me.

We can all think of examples when an incident has unequivocally damaged the reputation of a company or individual. Some are able to rebound (think Tylenol), while others (hello, Lance Armstrong or A-Rod) probably never will. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in: when a crisis arises, communicating quickly, effectively and accurately to the various audiences is crucial. Issues range from product disruptions, natural disasters, employee disputes, executive leadership turnover, poor earnings, regulatory and compliance issues, as well as many other unforeseen challenges. And with the rise of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs, the years spent building your company's brand and reputation can be damaged literally in seconds.

Ask around, and you'll discover that close to half of the companies out there do not have a plan in place should a crisis unfold. Effective crisis communications planning is more critical than ever, and the key to properly managing any issue is to have a crisis communication plan in place before your organization is faced with a major challenge.

PAN offers a comprehensive, step-by-step crisis planning guide, where we work with our client to ensure the right procedures, polices and plans are in place should a crisis occur. We look to identify internal stakeholders, establish a chain of command, and determine the "owner" of the plan in a time of a crisis. We identify key audiences (customers, suppliers, employees, community, and media) that need to be addressed and outline the necessary questions to be answered when a crisis occurs, among many other necessary items.

If you haven't already, now's the time to prepare. Waiting runs the risk of disrupting the brand’s reputation. One that may have taken years to build could crash in seconds. To get started, we'll schedule an initial meeting to discuss the possible crisis scenarios, revisit core corporate messaging to determine what should be included in the plan, and check to make sure existing plans are updated to include social media scenarios.

Sticking your head in the sand is not an option. The companies and executives who are prepared for crisis when the time comes (and it will) will be glad they took the necessary steps ahead of time.

Whether you’re a New York politician running for office or Miley Cyrus at Sunday night’s VMAs, you’re better off having a crisis communications plan in place and a solid team ready to execute in real-time.

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