In just about every way, 2023 was a trying year for the corporate world. Organizations across the country faced new tests as leaders grappled with issues ranging from reductions in force to rising inflation to geopolitical instability. Many of these challenges show no sign of slowing in 2024 – and in the U.S. will likely be magnified by a divisive election year – making it essential for organizations to inoculate themselves against crises, protect their reputations from the unexpected, and prepare their leaders to react quickly.
At Issues Management Group, we manage crises for healthcare organizations addressing data breaches, major consumer brands messaging executive malfeasance, colleges and universities navigating Title IX cases, law firms defending their clients’ reputational issues, institutions sharing their perspectives on the Middle East, and many more. In many cases we help our clients react in the moment: in the better examples, our clients react by implementing a thoughtful crisis plan we have prepared for them.
Proactive crisis planning is an intensive process meant to uncover key areas of liability and prepare for issues that could invariably come up in the years to follow. We engage in crisis planning for clients across sectors, working with them to evaluate and prepare for a variety of potential challenges. By charting a personalized crisis communications plan built on an organization’s unique past experiences, our IMG team ensures clients remain ready for any scenario that comes their way.
The steps to a successful crisis plan include:
Engage in thoughtful scenario planning
In crisis communications, one size does not fit all, and your organization must be prepared to adapt to a variety of issues. To ensure that your company’s crisis plan is prepared for all crises that may arise, it is crucial to outline all potential scenarios, define the risks associated with each, sketch out timelines, assign responsibilities, and draft messages that can be quickly disseminated if the need arises.
Identify key protocols
In a crisis, alignment between internal and external communications strategies is critical. Having clear, agreed upon protocols in place will ensure all audiences – from staff to board members to regulators to customers – are communicated with effectively. Media protocols are a crucial element of this planning – companies must have clear direction on how to handle media inquiries in the midst of a crisis. Taking this a step further, all approved spokespeople must be effectively trained with fine-tuned messaging that conveys the necessary information while also matching the issue with the appropriate level of emotion and humanity.
Solidify and train your response team
Understanding and identifying which members of your leadership team will take part in crisis response is paramount to preparing your organization to respond to issues. Once identified, training this response team in their unique roles and responsibilities is crucial to ensuring your team can be mobilized quickly and operate as smoothly as possible during a crisis.
No organization is immune to crises, and these challenging issues often arise when they are least expected. Companies that set themselves apart through strong crisis response do not do so by accident. Successful issue mitigation is a result of careful, proactive planning around the unexpected and uncomfortable. In today’s 24-hour news cycle, all organizations should have a thorough crisis communications plan in place. Their future success might just depend upon it.