3-step crisis planning for mid-market companies

Sean Murphy

Crisis planning can be a challenge for middle market companies that often lack the resources to staff large internal legal or communications teams. It’s an important issue because these companies can be even more vulnerable to the effects of a crisis than larger organizations—particularly in a hyper social media environment. However, there is an efficient three-step process they can use to manage a crisis, and thereby protect their reputation, valuation and other at-risk assets.


Step 1: Establishing A Crisis Protocol

With the speed of communication and rush to judgment that characterizes today’s world, companies usually get one shot to land their message and demonstrate competence in responding to a crisis. They’re often hindered by a chaotic internal reaction resulting from not having a response plan with a designated crisis team. In fact, the first step in crisis planning is to codify an alert process, including the names and 24-hour contact information of key personnel, and the means for them to quickly meet, either in person or using technology.

Given the convenience of technology, there should also be constantly updated contact information and notification procedures for key stakeholders, including media, customers, community leaders, regulators and other government officials. Likewise, it’s critical to have an efficient mechanism for communicating with employees (including obtaining feedback) and clear corporate policies for their use of social media or contact with traditional media in talking about the company.


Step 2: Developing Likely Crisis Scenarios

Because crises seem to come from nowhere and blowup quickly, some company leaders thinks it’s not possible to plan for such events. Not so. If you’re an industrial company, then you plan for environmental accidents. If you’re a company that collects personally identifiable information from your customers, then you should be prepared to respond to a data breach. If you employ a lot of people in geographically far-flung operations, then it’s important to acknowledge the potential for workplace violence and plan accordingly.

In this step, crisis planning means brainstorming the most likely potential crisis scenarios and preparing response materials that can be quickly adapted for the realities of the situation as they emerge. These materials include key messages, a media statement, an initial employee communication, and customer communication (if applicable).


Step 3: Practicing Your Company’s Crisis Response

There are two levels of practice readily available and affordable to any middle-market company. The first is spokesperson training, which can be accomplished in one day and typically includes preparing 3-5 company spokespersons, including operating executives who may not be accustomed to dealing with the media or public.

A second opportunity is to conduct a one-day tabletop simulation exercise to give the designated crisis team a chance to work together on their response to the most likely scenarios the company may face.

Taken together, these three steps provide an efficient means for any company to give their best response in a crisis and maintain the trust and support of their key constituents, from customers to employees, and regulators to investors. 

To learn more about crisis preparation and planningcontact CSI today.

About the author:

Sean Murphy is a strategic communications counselor with extensive corporate reputation and litigation/crisis communications experience. Sean has worked with a number of leading organizations, across a wide range of industries, on public communications challenges presented by high stakes and high-profile crises cases.

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