“Build it before they come.” That’s the recipe for success in crisis response. The “it” is your crisis team and experience has taught me that companies that weather crisis the best have their response teams in place before they need them.
Building the right crisis team is a critical initial step in creating a crisis plan. And while you can’t anticipate what the face of a crisis will look like, you can build your team before you see that face.
Much like an NFL team roster, you need to build out big. At the start of training camp, there are 90 players competing for a spot on an NFL team. By the start of the season, those teams have whittled their active rosters to 53 players. Of those 53, only 46 players can dress for a game. Those rosters might include two or even three quarterbacks, four running backs and six wide receivers. But, remember that, at any one time, there are only 11 players on the field. In football, there’s a reason for that large roster – flexibility. You never know who you’ll need on the field and you never know who’s going to get hurt.
It’s like that when building a Crisis Response team. You need to build the roster before you know who you’ll need on the field for any one play. And you need to anticipate the need for a variety of players.
Start building your roster by envisioning a wide range of possible crises. To do this, we run our clients through what we call our “Crisis Spotting” exercise to identify possible negative scenarios. Many times, they are often reluctant to start the ball rolling in this exercise. Who wants to be the guy who suggests there’s the potential for a product failure? Or an executive behaving badly? Or workplace violence? But these things happen and the companies that pretend they don’t are the ones that are immobilized when they do.
Once you’ve developed that gruesome list, it’s easier to figure out who you need to have on-call as possible players on your Crisis Response Team. At minimum, that team should include: the president, a member of your board, your in-house attorney, PR counsel, webmaster and an administrative support person. The roster should also include:
- Relevant c-suite executives
- Outside counsel that concentrates on pertinent practice areas
- Outside PR professionals with a crisis specialty
- Investor relations professionals
- HR representatives
- Members of the Social Media Engagement Team (if you are active on social)
- Security professionals, both in-house and local law enforcement
- Technology/product experts
- The “voice of the field”
- Representatives of the local community
You’ll need 24/7 contact information for each of these people, plus a willingness to serve on the team if called upon. In addition, you’ll add and subtract to the roster every time you have a crisis. That’s because each incident will teach you something different. And because of that, you’ll have a better idea of who works on the field and who you need to add to the team. A crisis plan, like a game plan, is constantly evolving.
Build your roster of players before you need them to take to the field during a crisis. It’s the key to mobilizing quickly when a crisis develops. Do it now. Do it often. Make it a priority before the Big (Crisis) Game calls them onto the field.
UPDATE: A VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARED IN THE MARCH 30, 2015 HARTFORD BUSINESS JOURNAL: http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/article/20150330/PRINTEDITION/303269924