December 6th, 2017
Robert Baden-Powell was the British Army officer whose work inspired the creation of the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. He said that their famous “Be Prepared” motto means that Scouts should think through how they would respond to any accident or emergency and practice their responses. The goal of being prepared, Powell said, is to ensure that Scouts are “never taken by surprise” and can respond immediately to an unexpected situation.
The “Be Prepared” motto is also excellent advice to help your organization prevent, mitigate, and manage an emergency or disaster that could damage its image, reputation, operations or bottom line. Based on my years of experience as a CEO and crisis management consultant, I created the following basic eight-point checklist to help ensure that organizations are “never taken by surprise” and can respond immediately to a crisis.
The checklist is organized around four familiar sayings.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
- Identify all possible causes and scenarios for different types of emergencies and disasters. Take reasonable steps to prevent or mitigate them as much as possible.
- What you can do now depends on the nature of the potential crisis, whether it is financial-related, HR-related, criminal behavior, natural disasters, etc. Check with your CPA, attorney, state and federal agencies, and other resources for recommendations on how to prepare for and recover from these and other situations.
If You Fail to Plan, Then You Are Planning to Fail
- Prepare a basic crisis management plan that you can implement immediately. Seek input and suggestions from all parts of your organization, outside legal counsel, public relations consultants, advertising agencies, etc.
- Create additional individual customized plans to meet different crisis scenarios such as allegations of sexual harassment, embezzlement, hostage situations, evacuations, criminal behavior by employees or corporate officers, etc.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
- An organization that is going through a crisis needs to ensure key audiences that it is handling the situation in an effective and speedy manner. But don’t just talk about it – show and demonstrate what you are doing, how you are doing it, and your progress in managing the crisis.
- Identify or create visuals (photo ops, pictures, charts, graphs, etc.) that show what you are doing. Draft complementary messages and talking points for the visuals that address each potential crisis scenario and your progress in managing it.
Practice Makes Perfect
- Hold unannounced exercises to practice your organization’s response to different crisis situations.
- Adjust your crisis management plans to reflect lessons learned from the drills.
By implementing the basic steps outlined above, you’ll also be following another familiar saying:
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Edward Segal is a crisis management, communications and PR consultant; spokesperson trainer; and former CEO of two trade associations. Edward offers one-day crisis management workshops that he can bring to your organization. Reach him through his website at www.PublicRelations.com.