Specialized crisis plans spur team-wide involvement

Over the past few years, corporate crises such as product recalls and data breaches have received increased media attention. Accordingly, companies now plan for damage control in crisis situations, which has led to greater specialized crisis planning.

Over the past few years, corporate crises such as product recalls and data breaches have received increased media attention. Accordingly, companies now plan for damage control in crisis situations, which has led to greater specialized crisis planning.

Increasingly, unique areas of businesses are playing significant roles in the crisis-planning process. Business sections, such as the supply chain - which were not typically involved in crisis planning in the past but are often involved in the crises itself - have begun playing a significant role in any crisis planning strategy.

Scott Farrell, EVP and regional MD at GolinHarris, points out that the fundamentals for developing specialized crisis plans are similar to traditional crisis planning, except the process involves more detailed thinking.

"It includes everything from telling [the client] how to work with the media [during] the first critical hours of a crisis, to envisioning a full-blown live scenario that reaches across every functional aspect of a company, from supply chain to HR to sales, marketing, and communications," he adds.

Golin has been doing significantly more specialized crisis-planning work with clients over the past 18 months - much of it focused on the supply chain.

"Clients really see the value of being prepared - not only in their ability just to respond quickly - and they realize the importance of a proper response in terms of their culture, their employees, [and] their stakeholders," he says.

At Weber Shandwick, Joe Ganley, VP of the agency's corporate practice, says the firm has worked to create detailed crisis plans that can be implemented quickly.

WS can also help a company think critically about who it wants involved in its communications efforts in the wake of each specific crisis. The process of developing a specialized crisis plan involves training people across many areas of the company.

"[There's] a lot of forcing people to sit down and think through - if a crisis happened - what would we want to do; how would we want to respond; who would we need in the room to make decisions," he says, "and then codifying that into operating procedures that are easy to follow. The crisis working group for a data breach is very different from the crisis working group for a supply chain."

David Kalson, executive MD at RF/Binder, mentions that the agency also involves people from various operational areas of a corporation in its crisis plan, such as people from engineering, IT, the legal group, or any other area of the company that has vulnerabilities or is involved in the crisis in some way.

He explains that with a data breach crisis, for example, the IT department should be prepared to go into the system and follow procedures to prevent people's identities from being stolen.

"The communications group has to work with whoever is in charge operationally, to correct the crisis at hand," he adds.

Key points:

Firms are developing specialized crisis plans that include people from many more areas of the company than ever before

Specialized crisis plans allow companies to react more quickly to a crisis than generic plans

Brainstorming crisis scenarios with members of various teams is a key step in developing a specialized crisis plan

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