One of the most important (and one of the most challenging) aspects of crisis or incident management is communications, both internally to your own people, and externally to your various stakeholders or the media. Get this bit right and you can save yourself an awful lot of hassle. Get it wrong and your problems will almost certainly be made much worse.
As with incident management and business continuity management in general, getting it right means planning in advance. Just a few of the things that can be thought through as part of this planning process include :
- Identifying your various audiences (e.g. staff, clients, business partners, suppliers, shareholders, the media, and anyone else you believe to be important to your organisation);
- Ensuring alternative means of communication – don’t rely on any one method, such as mobile ‘phones or e-mail, but give yourself a range of options;
- Identifying the crisis media manager and support team;
- Identifying spokespeople and training them;
- Briefing other staff (particularly "front of house");
- Agreeing lines of approval and clearance procedures for statements;
- Planning to ensure a consistent message, although the actual wording might differ for your various audiences;
- Keeping stakeholder contact details, press lists, etc up to date;
- Ensuring 24 hr access to these contact details, press lists and to PR support (whether internal or external).
To use an old army adage, "Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P… Poor Performance" (fill in the blanks yourself if you feel so inclined!). Crisis communications is an area where this is certainly true. So plan properly and make sure your communications performance is up to scratch when you need it to be.