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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Why having a crisis communications team matters

Creating a crisis plan before you need one gives you time to select the right people for the right jobs and figure out the best plan of action. It also gives you time to practice your emergency response so when a real emergency occurs, you are ready to hit the ground running.

Why having a crisis communications team matters
[Yevhen / Adobe Stock]

When a crisis occurs, there’s no time to waste. You must act fast and decisively, and you must have a plan of action. You should also have a team of trained crisis PR pros who can implement your crisis PR plan once it is mapped out.

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Organizations that don’t have the essential tools in their toolbox to handle an emergency may find themselves scrambling when a disaster strikes. But allowing an outcome to hinge on luck is an irresponsible stance. Planning ahead can help you avoid pitfalls and ensure the best outcome possible. Figuring out what to do in an emergency is something businesses need to plan for before problems occur.

Creating a plan is essential because companies are responsible for their products and/or services, as well as the welfare of their employees. Assembling a crisis team is the first step in disaster preparation, and having the right people in the right jobs can mean the difference between success and failure.

RELIABILITY EQUALS CREDIBILITY

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Not being able to communicate during an emergency can amplify the problem and make a dire situation even worse. A company with a crisis communications plan in place can communicate with affected parties before, during, and after a disaster. Businesses should establish communications protocols ahead of time so employees know what to expect if traditional communications structures are disrupted.

Making it work all comes down to careful planning. A crisis communications team can create a comprehensive crisis response plan that establishes a chain of command and communications protocols that can be activated during an emergency.

Companies will need ways to share updates with leadership, employees, the media, and other internal parties. A crisis communications team can determine ahead of time how people will be contacted and then create contact lists for every affected party.

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COMPETENCY STEMS FROM TRAINING

Company leaders who plan ahead can facilitate a more positive crisis response by training the right people for the right jobs. For example, not everyone feels comfortable talking to the media. Choosing the right person to serve as company spokesperson means selecting someone who can think on their feet, feels comfortable around reporters, and can be trusted to share the company line.

In order to succeed, a crisis communications team should have these things:

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Administrative support: A crisis response team needs the support of a company’s senior managers so if disaster strikes, the team has the power and authority to activate and take action.

Ability to lead: A crisis communications team should be composed of competent, authoritative individuals who have the skills and knowledge to act when an emergency occurs. Responsibility should be awarded based on competency, not job title.

Clearly defined roles: Crisis response team members should know what their job is when an emergency occurs and be comfortable performing it. If there is anything team members don’t know or understand, they should get training or research the issue before they need to take any action.

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Scalability: Not all emergencies are created equal. It is very possible you will need to revise your crisis response team during the crisis. Identify others ahead of time who can join the emergency response team so you are ready for anything and can react accordingly.

Emergency response practice: Conduct mock disaster drills so you are ready to react with speed and efficiency. Practicing an emergency response and working out the glitches could mean the difference between life and death.

Ability to adhere to existing disaster protocols: Every organization has established plans and procedures. Follow your company’s to ensure continuity.

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Ability to follow your crisis response plan: Your plan may not include every detail, but it will include a broad-based response. Follow the plan as closely as you are able and update it as additional needs become evident.

When it comes to crisis response planning, there is no one-size-fits-all. Every organization has different weaknesses, strengths, and needs. Creating a crisis plan before you need one gives you time to select the right people for the right jobs and figure out the best plan of action. It also gives you time to practice your emergency response so when a real emergency occurs, you are ready to hit the ground running.


Evan Nierman is Founder and CEO of Red Banyan, an international crisis PR agency, and author of Amazon bestseller Crisis Averted.

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