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Five Tips for Preparing Your Worst Organizational Crisis Scenario

Author: Mike Kohler, Brian Lamb School Instructor

Public Relations (PR) people can be real downers. Or at least they should be.

Not all the time, mind you. After all, PR people are renowned as storytellers, engaging networkers, lively event hosts, etc.

So, no, they shouldn’t be downers on any of those occasions.

Where their pessimistic side should show up is in conspiratorial collaboration with their Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or the CFO’s risk management designee or with the Human Resources (HR) watchdog of the organization in crafting a dynamic, useable crisis communication plan.

Tip #1 - While the rest of the organization is planning for the best, the seasoned strategic communications professional must prepare for the worst, or even for the unthinkable. Someone has to think about the unthinkables, such as business disruption or even loss of life. It’s a value to the organization if someone is ready to challenge all the team’s blue sky forecasts with (potentially grating) “what if?” questions.

That’s the first tip in preparing for crises.

Tip #2 -  Rehearse. Truly rehearse. Think of worst-case scenarios and role-play them out. After all, you wouldn’t consider making a big presentation without preparation, so you can’t possibly think that business continuity is less important.

Tip #3 – Redundancy in your crisis communication plan. Each contingency should have a contingency. Think of the average calling tree. If you’re a comms pro, chances are that you are pivotal in the plan. But what if YOU are the emergency?

Tip #4 - With all that planning established, publish the plan. Publishing has multiple values, including the learning that comes from actually crafting the document as a team.

Tip #5 - Finally, share the plan and train it. A crisis plan is the last thing that should be on a need-to-know basis for frontline employees. A well-trained plan almost ensures that an unexpected hero will surface in a crisis situation.

Learn More About  Strategic Communications
Mike Kohler is a member of the online faculty of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 10 courses (20 months) and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

About the Author
Mike Kohler has been a business owner, business coach and communication consultant. He has served as a communications vice president for two of the largest U.S. broadband companies and as a marketing and communications consultant for all types and sizes of organizations.  Stemming from his experience as both a franchisee and master franchisor, Kohler co-authored The Educated Franchisee, a guide for prospective entrepreneurs. He earned his MBA and a Bachelor’s in Journalism from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.