Do no harm. This was the first thing I was taught about crisis planning, back in the mid-1980s way before cell phones and Twitter. Twenty-plus years later and it’s still the best piece of advice anyone can follow. It is an integral part of every crisis planning and crisis response session I teach.
The second piece of advice came from my years as a Girl Scout: Be Prepared. While no one waits around for a crisis to happen, there are so many things you can do in advance of an unforeseen event that will help your organization manage it and move on.
Many organizations do crisis planning and response well, and literally scratch their heads when they see the gaffes committed by those organizations who make big mistakes under fire. If you haven’t yet thought about what would happen in a crisis, here are three objectives commonly used in visualizing the problem.
Contain the Risk
This means responding to the actual crisis, whether it is natural or manmade, accidental or intentional. It also means to secure the people and places that are involved in the event.
Resolve the Problem
This is pretty self explanatory for weather events. If it’s a fire, put it out. If it’s a thunderstorm, clean up the damage. For manmade or intentional events, though, the road to resolving the problem is far more complicated.
Communicate Effectively throughout the Process
This means to talk about what’s happening, give advisories, warnings, share images, updates and information. Where some organizations get into trouble is when they consider these three principles as happening one at a time, when in fact, they often happen simultaneously.
Smart organizations know that many elements of crisis planning CAN and ARE planned in advance. This can be as simple as creating a phone list or as involved as creating a triage team for larger incidents and practicing how you will respond.
But you’ve got to start somewhere. Here are some links to get you started in planning YOUR next crisis.
- The Ten Steps of Crisis Management from Bernstein Crisis Management
- Crisis Communications for the Social Media Age from GigaOm
- Sample Crisis Communication Plan from the Colorado Nonprofit Association
This series is a preview of my presentation tomorrow for 100 tourism professionals from around the state who are attending Travel and Tourism College. The week-long educational opportunity is an initiative of the Texas Tourism Industry Association (TTIA) and is now in its second year.