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Eight Questions For Your Crisis Communication Manager

You’ll want to know the answers to these questions long before you need them

1. Who’s on your crisis communication team?
The person in charge of your communication unit should be the point person in a crisis. While others may have more seniority, the crisis lead is the person who understands the day-to-day functioning of the media environment.

2. Who are the designated spokespeople in a crisis?
While the crisis team lead has the pivotal behind-the-scene role in a crisis, the media expects to hear directly from the CEO or the executive in charge. The fewer people who front a crisis the better. Why?  First, the public needs to know that the situation has the full attention of the top executive. Second, there is no room for error or mixed messages when trouble strikes.

3. Have your spokespeople been media trained?
Designated spokespersons training should be updated and assessed regularly.  The crisis team lead must be able to express concerns to the executive team regarding the readiness of spokespeople and whether or not there are any other issues.

4. What’s the role of the external communications consultant?
An outside specialist is better able to provide objective counsel and help the company address necessary truths and strategies to avoid more trouble. That person is not too close to the problem to see solutions.

5. Should external stakeholders be drawn into the loop?
While the key staff members should seize and maintain control as the crisis unfolds, it is important to draw in external expertise in crisis communications or public affairs as needed.

6. What about legal advice?
It’s prudent to seek legal advice, but never give lawyers the last word when communicating to the media in a crisis.

7. What check list documents and “Holding Statements” are now on hand?
The crisis team leader is responsible for maintaining the crisis binder which includes, among other things your mission statement or guiding principles. Within hours of a crisis the team must develop a fact sheet on the situation and a Q & A (FAQ) of likely questions.

8. Do you go to the media or wait for the media to come to you?
That all depends.  Success will be determined by the thoroughness of the plan and the expertise of the people making the important judgement calls.