ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
September 2, 2008

How Bulletproof Is Your Crisis Plan?


Corporate crises are filling the news these days: banks and mortgage companies going under, high gas prices tanking car sales and escalating plane fares, E.coli outbreaks delivering a devastating blow to grocery stores, restaurants and growers, CEOs caught in full-blown scandals.  The list just goes on. For companies dealing with these issues, it’s usually time to dust off the company crisis plan and start figuring out how to communicate your way out of the tailspin.  But is your crisis plan up to the challenge?

In my experience counseling companies on crisis preparedness, an audit usually reveals that the crisis plan was developed years ago, by someone who is not there anymore, and all of the contacts and systems are deemed inaccurate or irrelevant today.  The time to update it is not in the middle of your crisis, so companies need to carve out the time when they are not in crisis mode to really look at their crisis plan, make sure that it is “bulletproof” and actually practice responding to scenarios in regular drills.

What constitutes bulletproofing?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have the right people on my crisis response team?
  • Are they trained (and comfortable!) to respond and communicate in a crisis? 
  • Does my company have the technology to support a major crisis response?
  • Have I thought through not only the likely crisis scenarios, but also the less likely but more devastating potential scenarios?
  • Have I planned for every type of audience that can be impacted by my company’s crisis (not just media and customers) and how the company will communicate with each?

These should be considered “thought starters” for a larger discussion on challenging your crisis plan.  Do it today before you find yourself in the middle of your company’s worst nightmare and your only resource is an out-of-date manual.

By Jean Gonsoulin, senior vice president, GolinHarris is a senior vice president at GolinHarris’ San Francisco office where she heads up the agency’s Corporate Practice.  With more than 20 years of experience in public relations and corporate communications, she brings a unique perspective to companies facing significant challenges to their businesses and reputations. She has lectured on crisis communications and issues management in multiple forums and presented on the subject at the 2007 PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia, PA and will also be speaking on this topic at the 2008 PRSA International Conference in Detroit, MI.

Join Gonsoulin for How Not-For-Profits Can Maximize Relationships to Drive Social Marketing, at the PRSA 2008 International Conference: The Point of Connection on Sunday, October 27, 2008 in Detroit, MI!

  • http://buddingpublicrelations.blogspot.com AdamDenison

    Good post. I would add to your bullet points the availability of involved parties to respond quickly. With a recent, less-than-pleasant, announcement here at GM a few weeks ago, we put together a “rapid response team,” to monitor and respond to blog posts about the announcement. It was a great deal of work, and involved some weekend time, but I think it was very successful.