Last month, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking at the CCCA Allegheny Sectional. The title of the presentation was Damage Control: Communication Planning for Crisis Situations and the PDF is attached here.
Let’s say your organization suffers from property damage, a lawsuit, an accident or injury, vandalism, criminal activity, or natural disaster. Are you prepared to manage crisis situations like these? More specifically, do you know who will take point, what steps to take, and what to say to stakeholders, staff, government, and the media in an emergency?
Any of these situations – and so many more – would classify as a crisis situation. The Greek word krinein is the root word for our “crisis” and means a turning point in a disease. We think of it nowadays as “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger” – but that limited definition seems to leave out the fact that this situation is a decision point. It’s a turning point. Something happened and now it’s up to you to turn it towards good or bad.
And that is the fundamental lesson of crisis management. In difficulty, focus on the silver lining and your situation in such a way that makes you into the restorer, the reformer, the reviver. Most every story has a villain, a victim, and a vindicator, and if there isn’t a clear one, we try to falsely put people into one of those boxes. You need to be the vindicator, even if that means reforming from the villain. Always turn your problem into good if at all possible. You know the Lord is working your situation for ultimate good; your task is to find the immediate way to find the good in it to mitigate the damage to your organization.
You might think of an emergency situation as something limited to a sudden, unexpected disaster. But maybe crisis implies more – if it’s a turning point of an ailment, it could be long or short, life threatening or not. Crisis implies more factors than just urgency, including, for instance:
Crisis is a recipe of the element of surprise, a short decision time, and magnitude of a threat. That could mean a lot of things. Crisis management, then, would be:
The process by which an organization deals with a major event that threatens to harm the organization, its stakeholders, or the general public.
The first step in crisis management is, of course, identifying potential liabilities. That means doing a risk assessment. The assessment will help you identify how to handle an emergency.
Based on your risk assessment, build a Crisis Management Plan as part of your overall emergency preparedness. The distinction between Crisis Management and Emergency Preparedness is an important one – you should, based off the assessment, 1) do all you can to mitigate risk, from fixing known issues to contingencies, then 2) plan the steps to manage a crisis situation, and be sure to include a section on communications.
What you don’t want to do is find yourself in a crisis situation and have the wrong person in front of the camera, calling the shots, or Tweeting about it.
There are a lot of steps to properly managing a crisis situation, but for this post, we’re just going to focus on the first one. As elementary and obvious as it may seem, start with prayer.
In Job 5:6-9, Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends, eloquently says:
For hardship does not spring from the soil, Nor does trouble sprout from the ground.
Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.
But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before Him.
He performs wonders than cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.
Our obvious starting point should always be to pray; God knows our trouble, He sees the conflict, and He is well prepared to lead us in the issue, through His providence. Additionally, we, as humans, should not be terribly surprised when things do not go as planned. But God can surprise us in wonderful and miraculous ways, even if they’re painful.
But, of course, God’s omnipresence should not keep us from taking proactive steps to handle these sorts of situations with wisdom and integrity. Just as He desires our dependence, He desires that we be good stewards of our assets. So do that risk assessment, build a plan, and contact someone from Kafferlin Strategies if you need any help! Check out the PDF above for a list of additional steps to take in crisis communications, or ask one of our staff for a discovery meeting where we’ll simulate a situation to find your pain points.