By Keith Marnoch, ABC
Before you make like Bob Cratchit and escape for some well-deserved time off over the holidays, remember that crises never take a vacation. In fact, when your organization isn’t on a regular schedule, the chances of a crisis developing actually increase, while your agility to react to one is under an unusual strain.
During the holiday season putting in that little extra effort in, during December, will definitely lead to a much happier new year. As a communicator you need to adjust your mindset and understand the realities of dealing with challenging incidents when people and resources may be not as readily available as usual. This quick holiday refresher on crisis preparedness may save you from nervously waking up in an “Ebenezer” cold sweat. As always planning and preparation are your most effective weapons when confronting crisis.
First rule of crisis communications – have an actionable plan. This means, before disaster strikes, everyone knows their role as well as who can make decisions. If you work in a team, make sure everyone knows who the designated communication lead is when other team members are absent. Unfortunately, at least one person needs to be available at all times. If the designated person is empowered as a spokesperson, they can manage and mitigate an entire issue from the communications perspective without having to involve too many others.
Determine as quickly and accurately the nature and degree of your crisis. Is it merely an issue that can be resolved by communicating particular approved messages, or will it take more effort – and people – to deal with the situation. If it is a full-blown crisis, you need to respond.
Response is not an option – just because you aren’t in the office. Unlike Charles Dickens’ Old England, we live in an age where we all have easy access to technology that can make crisis management at the holidays much simpler.
Whether or not you are working remotely over the holidays, make sure you have access your web-based and digital communications channels to post messages – no matter where you may be.
Remember when it comes to responding to a crisis – timeliness is key. Social media channels allow you to acknowledge a developing crisis for both targeted and wider audiences. A simple “we are working on it” post gives you breathing space and can mitigate initial public concern. Having a pre-approved message to that effect makes that step even easier to share. It also lets you focus on the crisis at-hand.
Later, social media can direct your audience to updates via website postings and/or other platforms, and ideally detail a resolution to the incident.
Crisis Action Checklist:
- Is it a crisis, or is it an issue?
- If a crisis, is it ongoing or has it concluded?
- Do you have a pre-approved message for social media to indicate you are working on it?
- How can you gather the best, primary information?
- What are your key messages?
- What channels will you use to share your messages?
- Is a spokesperson required? If so, who will it be? Can you reach them?
- Who can approve your actions in order for you to act?
- How – and how often – will you update the situation?
If you can quickly answer these questions, you are good shape to respond to any crisis over the holidays… without being in desperate need of a Christmas miracle!