Crisis responses should be conveyed to all staff

Recently, an unknown party at a company embroiled in a crisis misrepresented himself to a PRWeek reporter. The person, claiming to be someone he is not, spoke at length about the company's situation, assailing the response of partners.

Recently, an unknown party at a company embroiled in a crisis misrepresented himself to a PRWeek reporter. The person, claiming to be someone he is not, spoke at length about the company's situation, assailing the response of partners.

We chose not to name the company behind this embarrassing incident because PRWeek strives to keep itself out of the stories it covers. But the incident shows an important lesson: Crisis communication preparation is worthless if it doesn't involve the whole team.

PR pros should know better than to assume that a crisis situation and its response can be contained to the senior leadership and communications team. Crisis experts often discuss the need to assemble a small group to plot a response strategy. We agree - too many voices could lead to inaction or inarticulate responses to media and stakeholder questions. But the plan should be spread to the entire internal audience.

In the past two years, we've seen more attention on the means of spreading information to internal audiences. Companies are able to attract key talent to run internal communications, and global firms are making that expertise a practice area or specialty discipline.

Mistakes like the one our reporter personally experienced provide justification for not only ensuring each organization has an internal specialist, but that he or she is an integral part of that small crisis group.

Employees can be irrational and not sense their individual interests when a crisis hits, and a folly awaits the company that thinks a mere e-mail and statement from the CEO or president will instantly provide relevance.

No, it takes serious communication, the fostering of dialogue, and specific explanations for how employees should and should not help to ensure that every staffer knows how to act.

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