The biggest mistake a business (or organization) can make is thinking that a crisis will never befall them. Let’s face it – they’re wrong. Any business that uses technology, computers and the internet is a target. According to the security firm Sophos, 51% of all surveyed businesses were hit by ransomware in 2020, with the impact reaching billions of dollars. It’s not just businesses being impacted. Emsisoft, a New Zealand-based producer of anti-malware solutions, reported that in 2020, at least 113 US federal, state and municipal governments and agencies, 560 healthcare facilities, and 1,681 schools, colleges and universities suffered ransomware attacks. However, technology is only one piece of the potential crisis puzzle.
In the broader sense, we commonly use the term “crisis communications.” In reality, there’s crisis communications – how and what you should say when you’re in the midst of a crisis situation – and crisis communications strategy – the plan you develop for how you will handle communications during a crisis situation. Today, let’s take a look at the strategy side of the equation.
Here are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself and your business for when a crisis inevitably happens.
Go back to the basics: Make a list of every possible awful thing you can think of that could happen to your business. Remember, crises are either man-made (including technology-related and/or an act of violence) or weather-related (i.e., a “natural disaster”). The more scenarios you can identify, the more strategizing and planning you can do in advance about how to handle them.
Determine who will comprise your company’s crisis team: Who will speak on behalf of your company during a crisis situation? Who will handle the flow of information to your various constituencies? How will you disseminate information and updates about the crisis? Make sure whoever answers/receives incoming calls knows they are prohibited from releasing any information about the situation. They should be primed to get the name, organization, email and phone number(s) of every person who calls while the crisis is ongoing. Make sure you let your employees, media, VIP list (discussed below), and general public know where they can find information about the situation, disseminated directly by your company.
Develop your “VIP List,” those local, regional and state government agencies you are required to contact in the case of a crisis (police, city/municipal public health and safety); local media contacts; local respected influencers (e.g., local religious and business leaders); Board members, clients and employees. A senior employee should be tasked with releasing succinct facts (developed by your communications team and approved by company leaders) to this list – at the outset and throughout the crisis – so that they have information directly from your company.
While it’s difficult to anticipate every crisis that could happen, being prepared will help you communicate more effectively and calmly when you do face a crisis situation.
About the Author
Geri Rosman, of Geri Rosman Public Relations (GR*PR), is highly regarded for providing strategic public relations counsel to clients around the country.
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