Just in case you have been completely cut off from society over the last few months, BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, and sank two days later, resulting in a massive oil spill in the Gulf. Now, the company is facing one of the most disastrous environmental violations of all time. This unfortunate incident serves as a reminder that it only takes one crisis to potentially damage a company’s reputation. The company has spent millions on a “green” energy advertising campaign that has been running for years and this one incident could potentially change everything.
So, one lesson we can learn from BP, is if you don’t already have a crisis communications plan in place, there is no better time than now to do one. This example is an extreme case, but crisis can mean any incident that draws negative media coverage and/or interferes with normal business activity. The goal of the crisis communications plan is to establish guidelines for dealing with a variety of situations, and to ensure that staff and communicators are familiar with those procedures and their roles in the event of a crisis. The plan provides policies and procedures for the coordination of communications within the organization, and between the organization and outside agencies such as media, regulatory agencies, customers, suppliers and the public.
From a practical application standpoint, a good crisis communications plan should do the following:
- Define and assign the crisis team, with an internal communications manager to lead.
- Outlines roles and responsibilities of the crisis team.
- Details steps to take in a crisis event by covering as many categories of potential crises as possible with responses for each.
- Indicates who to contact, resources that are available and procedures to follow.
- Provides a strategic plan to deal with media.
- Provides a platform for training, testing and improvement.
A good plan is structured, thorough, updated frequently and clear to those who are responsible for implementing it. Companies hope to never have to use it, but it is a must in any organization. Consider crisis planning as an insurance investment. Failure to address, contain and control a crisis can have negative consequences that may never go away. No company can afford that.
If your organization is ready for a crisis communication plan and is seeking an outside consultant, please contact us today.