In an earlier article the discussion focused on the importance of convincing senior management about the need for crisis management and communications.  The two go hand-in-hand and must stay together.

Crisis management deals with identifying those events that could occur that would likely cause a company to shutter its doors and/or have a long-lasting and negative effect on its stock price, revenues, etc. 

Crisis communications is that arm of crisis management in place to manage how the company responds to such an incident should it occur.  Its primary mission is to negate or reduce the effects of the crisis.

Having a Crisis Plan

The critical piece of putting such a plan together is identifying those incidents that could occur which would result in the company going out of business or which would have serious and long-lasting economic effects.  The odds of any of these possible scenarios occurring should not be a factor It’s the potential consequence that’s important. 

Once these possibilities have been identified, prioritize them according to likelihood.  Use whatever sources are available to assist. In some cases, one would simply have to use best guesses and common sense.  From this list, focus on the top three possibilities and begin drafting a crisis management and communications plan.

Crisis Management

Go through each of the top three areas that were identified and determine what, if anything, might be done to minimize the possibility of them occurring.  For example, if an active shooter was identified and the company has a reception desk at the front, could an armed security guard replace the receptionist?

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After considering different possibilities to decrease the threat in any of the areas identified, determine what the additional cost, if any, might be to exercise those options.  Discuss the pros and cons. Make a recommendation supported by the findings and backed up by any other information gleaned from research.

Crisis Communications

There are numerous parts to a crisis communications plan.  It begins with determining who’s responsible for what. In beginning to draft a plan, it’s critical to identify who the lead spokesperson would be in a crisis. 

How To Choose

The selection of a lead spokesperson will depend on the severity of the crisis.  Let’s define crises as “major” and “other.” A major crisis is one that was identified above, one that could shut down the company or critically affect its revenue.  “Other” could be something like a warehouse fire or fatal accident involving an employee.

In a “major” crisis, it’s almost imperative that the CEO be the spokesperson.  A company’s major public relations, ranging from customers, vendors, suppliers, shareholders, government officials, and employees need to hear from the person in charge.  They want to be assured that the matter at hand is under control and have confidence going forward.

However, the CEO may not always be available so a second lead person must be identified in the plan.  If the company is publicly traded, a good stand-in could be the board chair. He/she would be perceived as carrying as much authority as the company CEO.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.