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?

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, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.