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Crisis Communications Plan

A 10-Step Plan for Identifying Crisis Issues and Developing a Response

Why We Need a Plan


To help us:

Involve the right teams and staff members Conduct research we need to be prepared Focus on achievable goals Assess effectiveness and improve

Action/Decision Points

There are several major action points and decision points throughout the Crisis Communication Plan.

Action Point: Decision Point:

STEP 1Identifying the Crisis

What is a crisis? How is it different from the fires we put out everyday?

An event or series of events caused by or otherwise involving your company that could:
Cause injury or death; Do significant harm to the environment; Profoundly interrupt business operations; or Cause deep damage to the reputation of the company, its brand or its people.

Manning, Selvage & Lee Public Relations

Crisis Barometer

Assessing Impact
Is the situation highly visible? How quickly would it escalate in intensity? Would it have a major impact on the organization or its reputation? Would it have a major financial impact? Could it involve costly civil litigation? Does it involve human health or public safety?

Binocular Meetings
You should hold quarterly binocular meetings (involving all managers) --Look three months to a year out --Identify potential crisis situations --Plot their Probability Factor and Crisis Impact Value. Management should discuss and determine whether the issues surfaced at binocular meetings truly rise to the crisis level.

STEP 2HANDLING IMMEDIATE CRISES


How soon will the crisis hit? Next week? Next month? Three to six months? Dont know? If the crisis is already under way or imminent, you will need an initial responsea FAST ANSWER! The public may expect a response, whether you have the whole story or not.

STEP 3ASSEMBLE THE CRISIS MANAGEMENT TEAM


Avoid huddling and clumping or inner circle syndrome Give serious thought to each teams resources and abilities Ensure that all staff members with something to contribute to the plans execution are involved Management must decide who is on the crisis management team.

STEP 4RESEARCH
What are the appropriate messages to send about the crisis? Who are the audiences we should target? Which messages work better for which audiences? What are other groups saying or doing? What are the most effective communication tools to use?

STEP 5SWOT
The crisis team will use secondary and primary research to analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis). The crisis team also will use the research to identify potential allies and adversaries, and determine how that information fits into opportunities or threats.

STEP 6GOAL SETTING

The crisis team will set measurable goals for the crisis communication plan --Helps guide implementation --Enables the organization to monitor progress and evaluate results

STEP 7MESSAGE DEVELOPMENT


What are the best messages for your target audiences? What are the best PR tactics to deliver those messages to those audiences? Day 1, Day 2-7 and Week 2-4 messages

STEP 8WRITING THE PLAN


The crisis team will document all decisions and incorporate them into a written plan. --Plan will spell out which staff members are responsible for which actions --All staff members with responsibilities will have copies of the plan --The plan will include a phone tree with day, evening/weekend contact info. --The plan must outline a primary contact to begin putting the plan into action.

STEP 9--EXECUTION
Flip the switch

--FOLLOW THE PLAN! BUT --Be flexible

STEP 10--EVALUATION
Measure success Decide whether to conduct post-plan primary research The crisis team will document all actions taken under the plan and provide a postcrisis report to managers. (The report may include recommendations for improvement for future crisis response.)

Case #1
TYLENOL In the fall of 1982, an unknown person or persons replaced Tylenol Extra-Strength capsules with cyanidelaced capsules, resealed the packages and placed them on store shelves in the Chicago area. The poisoned capsules were purchased and seven people died.

Tylenol Crisis

Johnson & Johnson turned tragedy into triumph by managing the crisis well --Company managers quickly put together a crisis management team --It was honest and open with the media --It prioritized public safety and was willing, at any cost, to withdraw the product --It led the way in establishing new product tampering prevention offered coupons to consumers

Case #2
In March 1989, an oil tanker owned by Exxon, named the Valdez, hit a reef in Alaskas Prince William Sound and spilled about 11 million gallons of oil.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

In contrast to the Tylenol crisis, the Exxon crisis has gone down in history and in textbooks as an example of how NOT to handle a crisis. --Exxon did not acknowledge the extent of the problem --The company was slow to contain and clean up the spill --The company insisted on communicating from the remote town of Valdez, Alaska, limiting its ability to use the media as a communication tool

Case #3

In September-October 2006, three people died and more than 100 were sickened by eating fresh spinach tainted with E. coli bacteria.

Tainted Spinach Crisis

Another example of a well-managed crisis --California Farm Bureau issued the message, Food safety is our top priority. The message came quickly and from a high level: CAFB President Doug Mosebar. --Rather than shy away from a complex issue, CAFB explained the complexities in language that consumers could relate to Its not like an episode of CSI--cant be wrapped up in 30 min. --CAFB, within just four months of the crisis, proposed a new food safety program for leafy greens.

Conclusion

PLAN FOLLOW THE PLAN EVALUATE THE PLAN UPDATE THE PLAN Lynne Finnerty Public Relations, AFBF lynnef@fb.org 202-406-3646