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When Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail. Christmas Crisis Planning 101

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When Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail. Christmas Crisis Planning 101

Written By: Nicola Michel

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is almost here, again. At this time of the year, we at BlueChip start talking to our clients about the importance of being prepared for unforeseen crises during the holiday break. Financial services as an industry is typically quietest in January, but the fact that half the team could be lying on a beach somewhere can increase, rather than decrease, the risk that your organisation won’t be prepared to respond in the most effective way to unwelcome surprises. And given the harsh spotlight in which many financial services businesses have found themselves this year – whether singled out by the Royal Commission or not – it’s very much a year for some serious front-foot behaviour when it comes to crisis management.

But what does getting onto front foot really look like? According to an article which outlines 11 tips for handling a PR crisis, a crisis is very often an issue ignored – which means that knowing your company’s issues before you go on holiday is a very good first step. As is setting yourself (and your team) up for success, by thinking through potential issues and possible ramifications. Because it is only by thinking through what might happen that you can formulate the best and most appropriate response to something that hopefully won’t.

A plan is a great first step, but beware of giving lip service and not following words with actions. ‘Words are cheap’ is particularly apt when it comes to a crisis. The most carefully crafted words will mean nothing if your customers and stakeholders don’t believe you are sincere, that your response is honest, that you have a plan to address the crisis, and that you are actively enacting that plan.

In other words, say what you mean (the truth preferably), and mean what you say.

Here are our top tips to help you plan for a crisis:

1. Try to imagine as many crisis scenarios as possible – and ideally develop a holding statement for each one.

2. Create a team which will be on-call during the holiday season – make sure roles and responsibilities within the team are both mapped to potential crises, and well-understood.

3. Make sure any experts you might need are willing to be contacted if necessary, and that you have their holiday contact details.

4. Develop a spokesperson matrix – with a primary and secondary spokesperson if the primary spokesperson can’t be reached.

5. Make sure the spokespeople are well-rehearsed in the key messages for each possible crisis.

6. Ensure your PR agency is available and well-briefed to provide support if necessary.

7. Make sure you are receiving media monitoring notifications so you hear about potential issues first, and can act quickly.

8. Document your plan and make sure it is provided to relevant employees.

Of course not all issues or crises can be anticipated – but some can, and that’s where a well-constructed plan will help you to get the facts out and act proactively, to ensure you don’t fall behind the news cycle and allow someone else to hijack and control the debate.

A quick and honest response is central to a successful crisis strategy. Addressing the problem proactively with facts is the best way to keep ahead of the news cycle and stop someone else from hijacking and controlling the debate. Too many of the biggest PR disasters stem from a failure to act quickly. Who can forget Mark Zuckerberg’s seemingly endless silence when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke? When action was required, Zuckerberg took 5 days – rather than the ideal 5 minutes to respond – prompting some commentators to describe the incident as the ‘worst handled crisis in the history of modern business’?

So, as Christmas approaches, don’t panic about what might be around the corner. Follow our simple steps, plan ahead, and enjoy what we sincerely hope will be a crisis-free holiday.

Related: How to Develop an Integrated Communication Plan for Your Next In-Person Event

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