[By Tony Popowski]
I'm not what would you call a "Debbie Downer". I like to think I focus on the positive aspects of life and look for the silver lining in any situation (except when the Mets lose... which is unfortunately often). I feel it's important to have a great attitude in the professional world as well. Corny Alert: We all get hit with challenges from time to time, but at the end of the day, I think you really should love what you do.
Unfortunately, I have to take a quick trip to Negative Town, but it's for a good reason. I was reading an article the other day called The Fifteen Most Hated Companies In America and as I expected, BP was on there. We don't need to rehash the BP oil spill, but it reminded me the importance of a public relations topic that many companies overlook: the clear development of a crisis communication plan.
While you should always hope for the best, it's also important to be prepared for the worst. BP was criticized for its lack of preparation in handling this topic and it really damaged their brand. The organization had to invest in a major public relations and marketing blitz. As you can guess, the lack of a crisis communication plan can be costly.
Many of us don't work for organizations that will ever have a crisis quite like BP, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be ready to handle any negative situation that comes our way. The more quickly and effeciently you can address any crisis that hits your company, the less damage to your image. Having a set plan in place helps tremendously with this.
Here are some quick tips on how to develop your crisis communication plan:
- Brainstorm all possible scenarios that would hurt your company's image (examples: a computer virus makes public your client's private information, you have to do a product recall, an employee does something illegal that impacts your clients, etc.)
- Rank your scenarios in order from most serious to least serious.
- Develop a clear action plan that best addresses these scenarios.
- Decide who specifically needs to be involved with your action plans. Create a "chain of command" in case someone is unavailable.
- In each scenario, have a "public statement" prepared. If it's a big issue that will most likely hit the press, it's better to be proactive than reactive.
- Finally, inform your staff of all action plans. All members of your team should be aware of the role they play in crisis management.
Although it isn't fun to sit around focusing on potential negative events that can impact your organization, you'll be happy you had a plan in place in case something actually does happens. Knock on wood that it doesn't. Other than that, stay positive folks!