Unfortunately, I recently had to go into crisis mode due to a family emergency. My two siblings and I came together to rally around my dad. Without discussion, we immediately assumed roles of information gatherer, comforter, and communicator and all came together to develop a plan of action. Fortunately, we are a relatively drama free family and we worked well together in a stressful on-the-fly environment.
The same can’t be said for many companies where there could be a hotheaded CEO or an over-the-top emotional spokesperson that admittedly does not work well in a crisis. On the plus side, in a business setting we have the luxury to develop a crisis communication plan in advance and assign roles and responsibilities with great thought and experience-based learning. As they say you can’t plan for a crisis while you’re having one, so make it a priority to do it.
So who’s on your team? Largely, the prime candidates are CEO, Vice Presidents, Public Relations and Legal Counsel. I agree that they should be included when designing the crisis communication plan but not necessarily during the implementation of said plan. Just because someone can lead a multi-million dollar company does not mean they have the right skill set to lead a team in crisis, trust me, I know.
A crisis communication plan is not a one-size-fits-all scenario as many factors come into play such as the size of the company, the gravity of the situation and sadly, but true, media interest. The same can be said for the crisis communication team, it should be crisis dependent.
Am I advocating more than one crisis communication plan? In a way, yes, the core of the plan remains the same, but the players rotate in and out as needed. I recommend instead of looking at the usual suspects of CEO and talking-head, look at all executives in the company, identifying the right person for the right position and train them accordingly. Take the time to really look deep and discover what area of expertise they have to offer the company and how they react under pressure – you may surprised on who you’ll find is your next crisis go-to.