Do your crisis plans include muzzling your execs?

A U.K. survey found that many communicators—those whose companies actually have crisis protocols in place—see top leaders’ missteps as potential liabilities in the heat of a disaster.

What potential crisis could have a substantial impact on your business?

The typical things that come to mind, at least in the B2B tech sectors, include data breaches, product recalls, acts of nature and tragic accidents.

Research out of the UK adds one more thing: upper management. Igniyte, a UK-based PR firm, commissioned a study of 508 managers finding that “40 percent of UK managers surveyed cite their higher management team as the biggest risk to a PR crisis.”

In many ways, PR is about diplomacy.

Here are two common challenges in effective crisis planning:

  1. Justifying the value of updating plans and communications that may never be used against competing and more pressing priorities; and
  2. Foreseeing all the potential triggers.

According to this study, potential triggers ought to include executives’ potential comments and actions.

“Just one ill-judged tweet from a key executive of a high-profile brand can bring the whole company into disrepute, or just one negative comment from a disgruntled ex-employee online can cause questions to be asked about how you treat your staff,” according to Simon Wadsworth, founder and director of Igniyte as cited by Communicate Magazine.

The benefit of crisis communications planning often isn’t revealed until the heat of a crisis.

Yet there’s a sizable population in corporate communications that admits to lacking a plan. This study found that 17 percent said their company didn’t have any crisis management plan, while 10 percent “said they didn’t think their company was well prepared for a crisis.”

If you don’t have a plan, how can you be prepared at all? As for management, it’s worthwhile to invest in media training for your execs before a crisis occurs.

A version of this article first appeared on Sword and the Script.

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