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Crisis Management

What is a Crisis ?

A crisis can be a career ender or an opportunity to excel; it can also be an opportunity for the organization's PR function to build credibility or destroy whatever had accumulated. When the crisis occurs, it's too late to start planning for it. This is when all the months of prior planning and relationship building pay dividends. When a crisis erupts, you must already know and understand your media. Perhaps more importantly, you must have the confidence of the organization's "dominant coalition" and be a member of it. Following are some keys to being prepared:

Regardless of the source of crisis be it a natural phenomenon, human activity or inactivity, no matter what type it is destructive or not, it goes through several stages. The number of those stages differs, ranging between three and five. But the former are unanimous in that crisis management involves all procedures, initiatives and activities carried out "before", "during" and "after" the crisis event.

A key word in crisis management is "prevention" and concentration of primary intellectual, moral, social and technological efforts during the period before the crisis. The main goal is to prevent the effects which are negative for people.

The skill of managing crisis focuses simultaneously on their prevention and the possibilities for their management once they have become a reality.

Designated Spokesperson

One individual should be designated as the primary spokesperson to represent the Company, make official statements and answer media questions throughout the crisis.

A back-up to the designated spokesperson should also be identified to fill the position in the event that the primary spokesperson is unavailable.

The spokesperson is:

Comfortable in front of a TV camera and with reporters. Preferably, skilled in handling media, skilled in directing responses to another topic, skilled in identifying key points, able to speak without using jargon, respectful of the role of the reporter, knowledgeable about the organization and the crisis at hand Able to establish credibility with the media, able to project confidence to the audience, suitable in regard to diction, appearance and charisma, sincere, straightforward and believable, accessible to the media and to internal communications personnel who will facilitate media interviews, able to remain calm in stressful situations.

In addition to the designated spokesperson and backup, it can be anticipated that other parties involved in the crisis; police, fire department, health officials, etc., will also have a spokesperson. It is important to obtain the identity of that individual as early as possible so all statements and contacts with the media can be coordinated between the two individuals and their organizations/interests whenever possible.

Practicing Tough Questions

A crisis situation is always difficult when dealing with the media. Therefore, tough questions and rehearsals are necessary to help the spokesperson prepare.

Prepared Statements

If you don't communicate immediately, you lose your greatest opportunity to control events. (Attached is a fill-in the blanks news release that can be used with little or no preparation as your first news release). Your first news release should include at a minimum the who, what, when and where of the situation.

Collateral Materials

Information brochures or fact sheets about the company or the area in which the crisis has occurred are helpful in informing the reporters or anyone else seeking information about the company.

Key Audiences

Below is a list of publics served by many public affairs or communications departments. When you are working on a crisis consider what the most effective method of communication would be for each group. Ensure that you communicate with each group that is part of your audience.

Contact Log

A log should be established to record all telephone calls from the media or other parties inquiring about the crisis. This will help to ensure that the many callbacks required are not overlooked. It will also assist in the post-crisis analysis.
  • Speaker Presentations
  • Checklists of do`s and dont`s
  • Handling Media Interviews

  • Tips and Guidelines

  • How To prepare for Broadcast Interviews
  • Quick Response Plans

  • Which contingencies require quick response plans?

  • How should planning be conducted in order to assure unified action?

  • What are the desired elements of a quick response plan?

  • How can the information in the plans best be made available when needed?

  • What capabilities will be needed to execute the plans?

  • How should planning be conducted to assure unified action?
  • What are the desired elements of a quick response plan?

 

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