As a journalist you have to be prepared to cover any story. After all, bad things happen!
Silverberg explained his experience of a major crisis situation firsthand. He was at Candlestick Park for the third game of the World Series when an earthquake hit. He said a few media organizations had emergency plans and emergency generators, but many media organizations in the area were not prepared for the crisis and did not have an adequate plan in place. Media coverage that day in San Francisco ranged from the unexpected to atrocious.
PR and communications professionals, along with the businesses they represent, must also be prepared for times of crisis. This will not only help with business continuity – the ability for your business to continue operation in times of crisis – but also keep The Media on its toes!
So how can PR practitioners start crisis proofing their agencies?
- Brainstorm. Come up with several crisis scenarios relevant to your agency and its clients. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Some examples might include: IT emergencies; prolonged office closures because of fire, power outage, flooding, etc; senior staff or management unavailable because of prolonged illness, missing persons, death, etc.; client crisis, or some other internal issue that might affect the operation of business.
- Responsibilities. Create a check list and prepare an internal guide for your employee handbook that outlines duties and responsibilities and what is expected of employees.
- Business Continuity: Set the expectation for your clients. How are you going to keep the office open and operations running smoothly to minimize impact and return to normal as quickly as possible?
- Process: Outline procedures. If it is an IT emergency what measures could you put in place before, during, and after the crisis? For example, employees may be required to have two backup email addresses. All employees may be required to have access to a VPN and Internet at home.
Examples of Additional Backup Procedures:
- 24 -36 hour backup of emails in Outlook
- Cell phone with a separate area code from where you do business normally
- Access to landline in case of emergency, including emergency contacts
- Private Facebook pages for companies
- Know what backup systems your monitoring service has in place
- Purchase additional domains
- Scripts or changing voicemail
- Coordinate conference calls
Of course you will want to set the expectation during the hiring process, as well as write down your plan and revise it as needed. The key is getting staff involved from start to finish so that they understand the process.
Got any other great tips for handling a crisis? Be sure to share your thoughts with me and the readers of Fresh Ideas.
*Bio: Colleen Flood has been a sales consultant with BurrellesLuce for over 12 years and is eager to become a more integrated part of the social-public relations community. She primarily handles agency relations in the New York and New Jersey metro-area. She is not only passionate about work, but also about family, friends, and the Jersey Shore. Twitter: @cgflood LinkedIn: Colleen Flood Facebook: BurrellesLuce