Growing up, I learned one tried and true axiom of crisis management by watching my mom sell real estate. Inevitably, every summer, as we would prepare to go on our family vacation, she would manage to sell a house the night before we were set to leave. A flurry of phone calls would ensue, followed by a race around town gathering document signatures, escrow checks and in the later years — faxes (this was the ‘80s after all) — to ensure the deal was done before packing up the station wagon and hitting the road. The annual exercise became a running family joke and a lesson that has stuck with me ever since childhood: If something can go wrong, it will … and usually at the worst time.
As crisis communications experts, my colleagues and I live by that rule, which some would call “Murphy’s Law.” It’s what causes us to occasionally behave like superstitious athletes or actors when vacations or holidays approach because we know what can happen even with the best laid plans. And with the holiday season upon us and most of your employees preparing for some much-needed time off, it’s important your organization has a crisis management plan in place to handle any issues that may arise during an already chaotic time of year.
Here are three key questions to ask to ensure your organization is prepared for a crisis during the holidays:
1. Who’s on the crisis management team?
Make sure you know who is on the crisis management team and how to reach them in a hurry. Ensure everyone understands their respective roles and responsibilities. There is no time for corporate turf wars or internal politics during a crisis. It also helps to develop a list of experts and specialists such as interpreters, medical advisors or academic experts that may be necessary to bring on board for a particular issue.
2. What’s the decision-making process?
In terms of crisis communications, what’s the workflow for drafting, reviewing and approving official statements? Make sure you have the process in place so you’re not wasting time in the heat of the moment with version control issues or waiting on approvals you don’t actually need.
3. Have you looked at your crisis management plan lately?
Maintain a crisis management playbook to give your team a point of reference when a crisis hits. Review it with the team on a regular basis. Consider engaging in staged crisis scenarios to bring the plans to life so that when the real deal hits, you’re not frozen out of fear.
If we’ve learned anything over the course of 2020, it’s that it’s just best to assume anything that can go wrong will go wrong, just like the adage says. But by doing what you can to prepare your team for the worst, you can undo a lot of damage before it’s even begun.
This article was written by Executive Vice President Natalie Bauer Luce. Natalie is a seasoned communications and public affairs strategist with extensive experience at the intersection of government, law, politics and business.