I’ve seen a lot of crisis communications plans.
Ninety percent of them get a couple of things right: They have a list of their comms team contacts, often with a phone tree so everyone gets called promptly when a crisis hits. They also lay out at least a few specific roles for the first comms team members who start working on the crisis.
I’ve got no problem with these elements. They’re important, but they’re the equivalent of the opening tipoff in a basketball game. You need them to get started, but they won’t determine the outcome.
In a real crisis, time gets compressed. Incoming media calls increase exponentially. Information is elusive. Gray areas abound. Messages are wickedly difficult to craft (and forget about getting them approved quickly).
A crisis is a tough climate in which to operate. Yet the stakes can be extremely high. The organization’s reputation, maybe even its survival, hangs in the balance.
A phone tree ain’t enough.
To be effective in a crisis, a plan has to reflect real preparation for the potential storm and the threats it will bring. That means strategic thinking, buy-in from the entire organization—and a lot of old-fashioned hard work.