Crisis Communications and the “It’ll Never Happen to Me” Strategy

News Conference

After 40 years in the insurance profession, I’ve come to realize that people in general are optimistic—a positive attribute. However, there is a negative side to this approach to life. It promotes a feeling of well-being resulting in a lack of urgency to prepare for a potential event. So, in an environment where time and resources are scarce, there is a strong propensity to choose not to invest in a crisis communication plan. We’re just a very positive species.

The Definition of “Crisis” Has Expanded

In the past, we may have measured the level of a crisis based on whether it was bad enough to appear on the front page of the morning newspaper. Not any more. In a blink of an eye, in a millisecond, in a flash, your company’s crisis event has potentially been videoed by the latest smart phone and sent virally, or  blogged, tweeted, Facebooked, and YouTubed.  And layer that with what the public may think is a crisis, but perhaps you don’t.

Optimism Doesn’t Cover the Balance Sheet

Your decision today to invest or not to invest in a crisis communication plan will be evaluated based on future events. If your company chooses not to invest, and no crisis occurs, the company will save a few thousand dollars. If a crisis does occur, your company’s reputation and future sales could be dramatically affected. So it boils down to a risk-cost analysis: a few thousand dollars vs. unlimited reputational damage and major impact on the balance sheet.

What If Scenarios
“What-If” Scenarios

  • Your COO is arrested
  • Hackers access your database
  • Your largest warehouse has caught fire and trapped employees and customers
  • Gunman enters your building and opens fire, killing and injuring many
  • Toxic materials have leaked into a nearby stream

The reality: Unforeseen, unplanned bad things (catastrophes) happen every day, and when they do occur, your preparedness will determine the impact on the balance sheet.

Is Your Crisis Communication Plan Ready?

The time to prepare a crisis communication plan is well before a crisis. What shape is yours in?  Here are a few of the questions you should answer when assessing the quality of your crisis communication plan.

Process and Policy

  • Do you have media policies and procedures in place and are they fully understood and workable?

Your Team

  • Do you have a Crisis Communication Team (CCT)?
  • Does everyone in your business know who is on it and what it does?
  • Is your CCT tested regularly, like a fire drill, using “what if” scenarios?

Spokespeople

  • Do you have a designated company spokesperson and are they trained?
  • Can the senior executives effectively tell their stories to the media in a crisis situation?
  • Do you have potential resources identified?

Messaging

  • What do you tell the press?
  • What do you put out on your company website, blog or Facebook page?

Plan Not Ready?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, you may be placing your company reputation, stakeholders, and balance sheet at increased risk.  If you are one of the unfortunate companies to suffer a catastrophic event, are you ready?

A risk consultant can help you develop a crisis communications plan—and if you’re a Willis client, your Client Advocate can tell you more.

About Jeff Seibert

Jeffrey Seibert has managed a number of catastrophic events during his 37 years in the claim profession. As Nationa…
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