Reassess your crisis communications plan

Are you ready for a real crisis to hit your organization? Have you thought about what you would do if your CEO were lost in a plane crash? What if someone on staff embezzled organizational funds? Or if you were deluged with accusations that you’re unfairly influenced by corporate interests, or Nazis – or both?

Welcome to the dark side.

Before the busy fall schedule kicks in, set aside time to think about the most likely, and then the less likely scenarios that your organization could face. Then put together a plan to handle them.

You may chuckle as you brainstorm ridiculous situations that you, the communications expert, may need to navigate gracefully. For even more laughs – and more thorough imagining – meet with some of your teammates.

But you will soon realize that what sounds impossible contains grains of truth.

Do you think that United Airlines ever thought they would have to defend against calling Security to deal with a passenger displaying unbalanced behavior, only to face a social media nightmare? Or that Tylenol considered what to do if someone laced their products with cyanide?

If they were smart, they did – or at least thought through what their response might be if something similar happened. And in aggregate, Tylenol did a much better job of handling their crisis than did United Airlines, so let’s make assumptions from there.

The problem with handling a crisis like these two is that there is no good answer. On one hand you have video of a bloodied passenger being pulled from a flight, and on the other, you have people killed with one of your products. Both scenarios make the company look bad. And yet, somehow, Tylenol managed to weather the storm, made packaging changes, and continues to be a go-to source for headache remedies.

So what does this have to do with public policy organizations?

We have seen many a policy-focused nonprofit prepare for crisis scenarios that consist chiefly of attacks on its reputation, and that is a great start.

But to truly prepare, a crisis plan must also include plans and media statements for corporate problems and ethical issues. An organization must be ready for the five most likely reputational attacks and objection responses. A good crisis plan can make the difference between your organization becoming the policy equivalent of United Airlines – or Tylenol.

This summer, do your organization a favor: reassess your organization’s crisis preparedness. Let us help: sign up for our online training series that walks you right through the process.

The first video, the August 17 Spark Session, is free!