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Got a crisis communications plan? Here’s a simple four-step process!

March 7, 2013

All too often, the answer is “No – but we know we need one.”

Every Thursday for the next four weeks, I’ll explore one of the steps I’ve outlined in my book It’s a crisis! NOW what? Though written with the tourism and hospitality industry in mind, this process applies to any business; and while it is simple, you’ll have to do a little work to put it in place (but you’ll sleep better once it’s done).

Let’s get started!

Step #1:  Designate the key members of your Crisis Communications Team ― and their back-ups.

There are four basic roles for your team, each of which may require more than one person, depending on the size and geographic reach of your company, as well as the extent of the crisis:

  1. Primary spokesperson: normally your CEO, this person will make the initial statement on behalf of your company, but may need to step back from the spokesperson role in order to keep the company running;
  2. Secondary spokesperson:  a top executive, often introduced by the CEO as the day-to-day contact during the crisis.
  3. Technical experts: depending on the crisis, this could be a health and safety officer, the CFO, CMO, CIO or others. Their role is to explain any necessary details about the specifics, but NOT to be the official spokesperson.
  4. Chief Communications or Public Relations officer: rarely, if ever, seen on camera or in a spokesperson role, this person is the primary coordinator of the company’s public response, advising the CEO and others on how best to express their position in a way that never obscures the truth, while assuring the company’s point of view is clearly communicated.

Every member of the team must have a back-up – or two – who are familiar with the responsibilities they might have to assume.

Your spokespersons and their back-up(s) MUST have on-camera videotaped media coaching.  It’s essential they practice delivering a variety of key messages, structured as 5- to 30-second sound bites, about your company or destination, and do so on camera, even if it’s a simple handheld one. Three “takes” will do it: I guarantee dramatic improvement and a sense of confidence that will be invaluable in a real crisis.

Next week: What crises might you face? Explore them now!

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