I hope you enjoyed the first half of this list.
Here is the sequel of common barriers to having a practical, actionable crisis plan.
- Long Q&As. My personal crusade against Q&A documents is based in practicality. I rarely see them in action when the chips are down. True, the person writing the Q&A benefits from the mental gymnastics of testing the fortitude of key messages. Legal teams like the idea of Q&As because every word can be parsed for potential liability. I’ll even agree that call centers may benefit from answers to tough customer questions (although I suspect verbatim replies will further frustrate the caller). Yet – I know no spokesperson with total recall of the perfect A for each Q. Instead, it may provide better results to provide a list of tough “peripheral vision” Q’s with strong set of key messages and ask the spokesperson to connect the two through rehearsal.
- Swiss-cheese templates. A fill-in-the-blank template approach – where the majority of content is preordained – suffers from the same delusion as #6 in my previous post: it’s impossible to predict the nuance of every crisis situation. Therefore, most of these templates require such dramatic rewrites that they’re inefficient. It’s better to provide a basic structure of key messages and perhaps broad templates (¼ of the content needed?) for press releases, fact sheets, timelines, backgrounders, and related tools.
- Long contact lists baked into the plan. Let me make clear that every crisis manager must have access a current list with primary, secondary and tertiary contacts. In my experience, the list is better served when it lives nearby, but outside of the plan. It makes the overall plan less clunky. Better idea: make the contact list an appendix and have it made available electronically. Since people who maintain crisis plans are often removed from those aware of staff changes and contact-list updates, it may be better yet to create a subset of an existing and regularly updated directory. Best option: consider integrating your contact list into a notification system (e.g., send word now, MissionMode) and schedule regular updates.
- Binderism. Hopefully, some of the previous tips will help strip a plan down to its most useful foundation, thereby avoiding a hernia-producing binder. But page-length is not the main point here. There are infinite and secure digital tools available now that help ensure access to plan materials whenever and wherever needed. Yes, this is obvious, yet very few companies move beyond the clichéd dust-collecting binder on the shelf.
- Rust. The bad news is that crisis plans perpetually grow out-of-date from the second they’re published. Annual updates may be late to keep pace with the speed of change businesses face today. Here’s the good news. If a plan is constructed with a modular foundation, it should take only a few minutes a month to keep plans relevant. Assign a Plan Master to make sure plan goals and content is updated regularly. A Plan Administrator can also make more process updates and hold the Plan Master to deadlines.
- The plan mandate. This last impediment isn’t focused on the plan itself, but rather in how it is introduced and shared with core and support teams. Rather than distributing a plan and mandating allegiance, it is better to solicit constant feedback. This helps to ensure better adoption and comprehension of the plan. A residual effect is that teams will be thinking about crisis management more actively, which improves the organization’s overall capability.
So endeth the disabling dozen.
What do you think? Have I missed any? Feel free to comment, question or challenge this list in the comments below.
Update (Mar. 16): These articles were also posted on Ragan.com.