One important aspect of your organization’s successful crisis management, is being able to reach out to, and communicate with, all impacted and relevant stakeholders, in a timely and efficient fashion. While you’ll most certainly leverage the digital landscape in some capacity to communicate your main messages – whether it’s via your corporate website, social media, etc. – we can’t overlook the importance of one-on-one, more personable communications that aim to maintain and strengthen your important relationships, throughout the management of a crisis.
Who’s responsible for these communications?
Typically, each department owns the relationships with one or more of the organization’s stakeholder groups. For example, IR owns the relationships with investors, while customer service, sales and/or marketing departments (depending on the structure of the organization) may own the relationships with customers. So it only makes sense that, in a crisis, each department will be responsible for ensuring timely and effective communication with their relevant stakeholders, as appropriate.
So, with that said, here is my question to you…
Is each department equipped with an efficient way to quickly gather the necessary contact information for each of their relevant stakeholders?
In other words, are they utilizing some form of database, software or program that will quickly spew out the contact information for each one of the people or companies they’d be responsible for reaching out to in a crisis – and is this information kept current? Versus, is the information being kept “in their heads” or programmed to their mobile devices?
If it’s a case of the latter – which, trust me, is not uncommon – then you have a gap within your crisis communication capabilities that you should be focusing on bridging.
In bridging this gap, your goals should be to:
- Ensure that each department knows which stakeholders they are responsible for communicating with, in the event of a crisis;
- Ensure that each department has an efficient way to extract all necessary contact information for each of their stakeholders;
- Ensure that more than one person has access to this database, software or program that houses this information;
- Ensure that all relevant contact information is kept current; and
- Fool-proof this system, in the event that systems are down. In other words, ensure there’s a backup system in place.
In a crisis, where time is of the essence and stakeholder expectations are running high, the last thing you want is for your team members to be running around, trying to figure out how to get the contact information of those who matter most to your business.
Next steps for your crisis preparedness program
The only way to identify and strengthen this potential gap is to ask the right people, the right questions – and then to follow up with them as needed. So, while you develop or maintain your crisis preparedness program, consider taking the following steps, if you haven’t done so already.
Step 1: Create a list of all your organization’s stakeholder groups and identify their “owners”
As I’ve discussed this in-depth in the past, you can find more information on best practices for taking this step here.
Step 2: Schedule meetings with the heads of each department (or those who own the relationships with your various stakeholders)
These meetings should be aimed at better understanding the means in which each of these people / departments will communicate with their stakeholders, in the event of a crisis. Some questions that will help get the conversation going, include:
- Which stakeholders will you (or your team) be responsible for communicating with in the event of a crisis? (It’s always good practice to confirm that your expectations are aligned)
- Do you have a database with all necessary contact information, that you can quickly and seamlessly leverage in a crisis?
- Who currently has access to this information / database?
- Do you have a backup database, in the event that systems are down?
Once you have this discussion, you’ll be able to gauge how prepared each department is, from a procedural standpoint.
Step 3: Strengthen any gaps or weaknesses identified
Once you identify the gaps and vulnerabilities, make sure the right people begin working to strengthen them. Give them objectives and be sure to follow up with them to check in on their progress.
Step 4: Include the necessary information within your crisis preparedness program
Once these systems and processes are in place, be sure to include the names and links to these databases within your crisis preparedness program. This will be used for reference purposes, as well as for ease of access in the midst of a crisis.
Additionally, you may want to consider adding the relevant stakeholder contact information to the printed and digital copies of your crisis management playbooks – ideally, in a prioritized order. This is beneficial, as it provides the team with a back-up list in the event that systems are down, or if the traditional “owners” of this information are not present in the midst of a crisis.
Ensuring that your crisis communications are able to be seamlessly executed, is your pre-crisis responsibility
Timely and effective communication with impacted parties is one of the most important steps within your organization’s crisis management. Ensuring that your team has the right processes and structures in place to execute on those communications, is an important part of implementing a crisis-ready corporate culture.
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Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.