Developing a crisis response plan


No matter how thorough your vetting it's likely at some point you'll need to deal with a crisis regarding a donor or licensee.

Too many organizations wait for a crisis to strike to develop a response. Crisis response planning should instead be proactive. A good strategy is to set up protocols for your crisis response planning that runs in tandem with your succession planning.

Consider becoming the advocate for your organization’s crisis response planning, if that’s what it takes to get it on upper management’s radar. Unfortunately, it will eventually pay off and your leadership will be appreciated.

Crises will vary. Some could be short-lived local issues while others could be high-profile national news. Develop a list of the various types of crises your organization could face: deaths of patients or volunteers, lawsuits by employees, fraud by management or board members, scandalous actions by a donor, bad behavior by a licensee, etc.

Who will be the single spokesperson for the organization on this issue? It’s always better for there to be a single authoritative source.

Who will write the press releases and deal with the media? Who will be responsible for all social media communications? In today’s world you’re likely to confront more questions from Twitter and Facebook than anywhere else.

Determine how much you can do in advance to help speed up your crisis response communications. Every minute counts. Silence and delay will be filled by speculation that may put things in the worse light possible. A lack of communication or obfuscation breeds anger and will lead to a loss of confidence.

Draft generic statements about your organization and about your concerns and commitments. Write statements that could be used as first drafts to respond to the most likely crises. Your statements should answer the six questions that make up every news story: who, what, where, when, how, and why.

Consider having a media training session for those who might be called on to represent the organization. Go through your list of potential crises and identify the individuals who would be considered responsible for the area at the heart of the crisis. 

While those individuals may not be the spokesperson for the organization you can assume they will be contacted by the media. At the very least they need to know how to redirect inquiries to the designated spokesperson in the best manner. Make this training session an annual event.