“The best defense is a good offense” is a well-worn phrase, and just as true in communications as it is in sports. The longer, and more effectively, an organization has been delivering their message and defining itself on offense the better it will fare on defense. That’s especially true when an unexpected crisis hits from out of nowhere. However, there are other things that you can do – today – to be prepared to protect your business and your reputation.
Here’s a quick checklist of the obvious, and the not-so-obvious:
Put a Plan in Writing
- It is true that “No plan survives the first encounter with the enemy”, but you can anticipate likely scenarios, and have a plan for what we call the ‘First 25%.’
- Identify key leaders in the organization who should be on the Crisis Team.
- Make sure the plan is updated regularly and you know where to find it if a crisis develops.
Know Your Crisis Team – and Where To Find Them!
- Plan and assign crisis roles ahead of time. The Crisis Team doesn’t need to include everyone at the organization, but if it only includes the CEO and his/her assistant, you’re off to a bad start.
- Get 24 hour phone numbers and e-mail addresses for all key people – and their key people, including admins and assistants, then conduct periodic tests. You’ll be surprised what you find when you dial the numbers. Note – a crisis isn’t the best time to learn that the cell phone for the guy with all the passwords doesn’t work at his cabin deep in the woods of Maine (true story).
- What you do and who you are (your elevator speech)
- How long have you been in business?
- How many people work with you?
- Highlight community involvement, philanthropy, achievements, awards, recognition – these all provide important context and help answer the question “Who are you?” more fully.
- Make certain the info matches the website
- Make it available in print and PDF
- Keep your web site up to date, since it’s the first place people will go to learn about you. Check and update the site on a regular schedule. Make sure someone on the Crisis Team can update the site quickly and effectively.
- It’s a good idea to reserve your URLs, and a reasonable number of others that could be misspellings, typos close to your name and derogatory variations of your name.
- If you haven’t done so already, establish a presence on social media. Post some content and cultivate “Followers” or “Friends”. Social media can prove to be an extremely valuable unfiltered platform for you to reach key audiences when a crisis occurs. The more robust and current you can make it ahead of time, the better off you’ll be.
- Check your search engine results - It’s the second place people will go.
- Compile recent media coverage, be ready to highlight the good news and have clear, credible context for the not-so-good.
- Have you been sued? Be ready to talk about the losses, but even opponents’ filings in cases that you won can be harmful if not addressed.
- Are your regulatory filings up to date? Have clear, candid answers for any questions that may be raised by any sanctions you may have faced.
- Incomplete, inaccurate, contradictory or out of date paperwork, particularly those that are public can be a problem.
- Also – always think twice before hitting send on that e-mail. The most innocent message may be a problem out of context.
The Key Elements of Offense:
- Define yourself on your own terms.
- Tell your story to the people who need to hear it.
- Who is your audience?
- Who needs to hear your message? Who do you want to influence?
- What is your message?
- If you can’t say it in 10-15 seconds it probably needs some work. And remember – it’s not what you do, it’s who you are.
- What information, or content, supports that message?
- What stories or nuggets of information help tell your story?
- How do you distribute your content and deliver your message?
- In this day in age, you need a multi-faceted approach. Word of mouth or a random newspaper ad can’t get it done today.