L. Darryl Armstrong
Advance Preparation Before a Crisis Makes the Difference During a Crisis
Before the crisis, successful communication will depend, in large part, on the preparations you make long before the emergency or crisis occurs.
Having a system in place will allow you to deal with the situation at hand, and not waste precious time trying to decide how to communicate. An effective crisis communication plan puts you in control of what may be a very volatile and confusing situation. If you plan to use social media, you best have established your credibility and reputation with your electronic followers and friends long before you deploy your Facebook and Twitter messages.
Identify potential crises – Hold a brainstorming session with key members of the organization to identify those scenarios that might result in unfavorable publicity for your chapter.
Develop policies to minimize crisis situations – Try to anticipate potential emergency situations and develop policies to avoid them. In many crisis situations you will be asked by the media what policies you have on that particular situation. You do not want to be put in the uncomfortable situation of stating that you have no policy. Create a file of information that addresses potential crisis situations and keep it up to date.
Develop a crisis management team – Determine in advance a team to deal with crisis communication situations. Assign at least one individual to be a crisis communications team leader and have a back up. Decide which team members will gather information, notify families of victims, deal with emergency officials, and communicate with volunteers and staff. Determine a primary and secondary spokesperson to communicate with the media in crisis situations. Give these spokespeople media interview training if possible. Appoint people to monitor coverage in specific media outlets.
Assemble and organize resources – In a crisis situation you and your crisis communication team will want to have up-to-date and accessible information. Resource information may include: current list of crisis team members and alternates with work and home telephone numbers – each team member should carry the list; updated media lists; insurance company contacts; lists of emergency services such as fire, police, hospital and ambulance; a means to communicate with volunteers and staff (fax lists or a telephone network); copies of policies for potential crisis situations.
Develop and distribute an emergency procedures guide – This should be a short procedural outline applicable to most events and programs (or specific guides for each event or program). It spells out what volunteers and/or staff should do if an emergency occurs or if contacted by the media, and lists emergency service and crisis team numbers. In general, staff and volunteers should contact emergency services if necessary and immediately report any potential crisis situation to the designated members of the crisis team.
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