It’s Not Always Smooth Sailing: A Crisis Preparedness Checklist

Crisis. Not a topic any of us wish to dwell on, but let’s be real: crises happen, and they can happen indiscriminately and often suddenly. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention…

Here are five topline questions I challenge you to answer about your company or organization to test your crisis readiness, ideally well before a crisis occurs:

Have you identified your risks? Do you have a list of possible crises that may impact your organization?
Take the time to walk through them and write them down – from natural disasters to terrorism to human resources issues – and identify the most likely ones to occur. You’ll use these to build a thorough but manageable action plan.

Do you have your team?
You need an established crisis response team, so go ahead and identify one now if you haven’t already. The team will need to address the crisis management/response process, crisis communications and possibly also business continuity and ultimately recovery. Define roles and challenge the team to meet regularly, update the plan(s) and hold a crisis drill to test the plan(s).

What is your action plan?
Before a crisis or issue becomes a communication or PR challenge, it first is an operations or business crisis, so make sure you have a plan for each scenario. What are the actions that will need to be taken to fix an issue or resolve the actual root cause of the crisis?

What is your communication plan? (hint: the action plan and communication plan are not the same thing!)
Once steps are being taken to address the issue or crisis, you will need a communications plan to be developed and prepared to be executed. It is rarely possible to over-communicate, so be sure this part of the plan is robust and thorough. Internal audiences and employees, guests and clients, community, media, investors or other stakeholders, you’ll need a plan to communicate swiftly and appropriately for each audience.

Housekeeping: pesky passwords, social media – are you organized?
Social media, whether your organization is actively involved or not, will become crucial to manage in almost every crisis. Make sure you have a plan, and critically, make sure the crisis team has the passwords and access to all communications and technology platforms and tools – the email marketing system and database, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and anything else relevant to your organization.

I challenge us all to go through this exercise at least once per year, and depending on your organization and your risks, perhaps more like twice per year or even quarterly.

If you need outside help with this planning and readiness process, we offer custom training programs for our clients, and we are always happy to recommend a short list of the best crisis specialists in the industry.

Cheers to a crisis-free future!