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Crisis planning is an important task

Karl Robe

Karl Robe

Before the phone rings with news of a crisis, the clock is ticking on the crucial first hour of your ability to successfully navigate that crisis. Your mind races with questions.

Are we prepared to get out front of a crisis? If not, are we prepared for what certainly will be an uphill battle to control the damage as much as possible? How will this impact our ability to function? If we come out the other side of this crisis solvent, are we prepared to regain the reputation we once enjoyed?

When people and profits are affected, a crisis is underway. Determining if and when to act, and in what manner, is most effectively and strategically accomplished prior to this moment. With precious moments evaporating during a crisis, the last question executives want to ask themselves is “why didn’t we look at this sooner?”

Organizations that are prepared for crises and issues improve their ability to respond to most vulnerabilities. As executives and internal response teams prepare for scenarios, it’s likely organizations will identify and even eliminate issues before these reach crisis status.

Recently I sat down with a CEO of a global company. We discussed his crisis response plans. Always curious as to what prompted him to move ahead with preparing for the unthinkable, I asked him what triggered him to invest time, talent and budget to crisis preparedness. His response was simple: “I turned on the news to see a manufacturing plant had exploded.”

That same day, the CEO entered a senior management meeting and asked his leadership team, “What would we do if our plants exploded?”

The silence was deafening and the startled looks upon the faces around the table was telling. Prior to your next senior management meeting, take a look at the numerous crises covered on the news daily. At your next senior management meeting, ask what would happen if this happened to you or one of your clients.

Whatever the answers, you can use the following to determine where your organization and your clients stand in terms of being ready to respond to a crisis.

Crisis Readiness Assessment

Does a crisis plan exist?

Is it older than 24 months old?

Have organization changes occurred and do these impact roles on the crisis response team?

Crisis Vulnerability Audit

Identify, pre-empt, prevent agenda altering operational events.

Identify, prepare, plan for agenda altering unforeseen events.

Prioritize by event likelihood and impact.

Crisis Planning

Pre-determine action plans, scenario messages, response personnel, decision-making authority.

Determine how leaders will manage identified vulnerabilities.

Assign operation impact values to scenarios.

Hold quarterly exposure leadership sessions.

Discuss new issues and progress toward eliminating previously identified exposures

Outline scenarios, timelines, variables, strategies, damage forecasts, messages, channels, affected audiences.

Crisis Rehearsal

Assemble crisis response team.

Activate pre-determined action sequences.

Conduct media, message, presentation training sessions.

Crisis Response

Manage the situation.

Respond and react to outside factors.

Monitor and measure visibility, audience knowledge, attitude and resulting behavior.

Initiate counter measures to achieve necessary changes to attitudes and behaviors.

Post-Crisis Recovery

Identify opportunities to emerge stronger.

Create action plan to rectify brand, credibility, reputation, stability, etc.

Launch actions necessary to rebuild.

Communicate about those actions.

Measure audience attitudes and behaviors toward organization, product, service, issue, leadership, etc.

Make adjustments as necessary.

Karl Robe, APR, counsels attorneys and executives on communications strategies that support achievement of growth objectives and overcome business challenges.Contact him at Karl James & Co. LLC by emailing

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