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Anyone who has ever developed a crisis plan knows what a monumental, albeit critical, task it is. At the same time, once it has been drafted and shared with the crisis response team, you never know how effective it is until it has been battle tested with a real crisis. Fortunately many companies and organizations will never endure a full-blown crisis, but for those who do, it’s not something that will soon be forgotten.

In the summer issue of The Public Relations Strategist, an article titled Crisis Communications Plans Built to Fail: 3 Warning Signs and How to Avoid Them is a great reminder of the ongoing scrutiny required to successfully overcome a crisis. The author suggests three warning signs that your crisis plan could fail.

Warning Sign No. 1:  You do not have a clear system for reporting a crisis.

The communications team is usually not the first group within a company to identify a crisis. How do you make sure that all of the employees within your organization know when to sound the crisis bell, who to notify, and how to effectively notify them?

Warning Sign No. 2:  It is unclear what information you need to gather and share.

Make sure the person receiving the call on the crisis hotline knows what questions to ask to gather as much information as possible. If a 24-hour operator for the crisis hotline is not feasible, consider rotating a cellphone among the leadership team so there’s always a prepared person to respond.

Warning Sign No. 3:  Roles are not well defined.

If your organization doesn’t have an established crisis response team, now is the time to set one up, as well as develop short job descriptions for each person on the team. This will help avoid confusion when the proverbial “you know what” hits the fan. The communications team is of course responsible with communicating to all identified internal and external audiences in a timely, thoughtful manner.

As the author so eloquently points out in his article, “The difference between crisis communications success and crisis communications failure lies in planning. It is called a crisis communications plan for a reason.”

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