A story in General Counsel magazine published today points out that 47 percent of GC’s have not updated their crisis-management plan to take account of the risks they may face in 2012, compared with only 36 percent who said they had.
As someone who has long advised lawyers, law firms and companies on crisis management, here are some immediate actions these GC’s (and their outside law firms) might take:
1) Create a crisis communications team right now if you don’t have one. Depending on the company size, the team should include the CEO, COO, GC, key outside attorney, HR officer, chief marketing officer, top public affairs/public relations staffer (or senior person from outside PR agency) and heads of information technology and building security. If your company has multiple offices, include the top executives in those offices as well.
2) Gather the team in a conference room to assess/discuss brewing crisis situations. Some could be leftover from 2011 and others might be right over the horizon. Every company has a few on any given day. They range from disgruntled employees, crimes committed by employees or executives, allegations of sexual harassment, allegations of age/race/religious discrimination, lawsuits alleging faulty products, or a negative story about the company’s products or services that are about to be published in a major business magazine, online and on radio/television. Of course, there are also the many “no fault” crisis situations like natural disasters and terrorism that every business needs to plan for.
3) Adjust your crisis management/crisis communications plan to include these scenarios and the real crisis situations that you know are particular to your company right now and in the near future.
4) Have your public relations professionals begin to DRAFT media statements that would respond to any of the crisis situations that you know are about to happen or to prepare for some of the items listed above in #2. Then, rehearse how your team will respond to various crisis situations. Some key things to remember here: insure that all members of the crisis communications team know their roles in a crisis, that everyone has full contact information of the entire team, and that the company speaks with one voice.
5) Check your social media. Are you answering customer complaints quickly and responsibly? Are you using Facebook/Twitter/YouTube to communicate your company’s goodwill and mission? Do you have a SENIOR person managing these accounts who understands online reputation and not just the technology?
Finally, please note that there are three key timelines in a crisis: Before, During and After. Too many companies don’t pay attention to these issues until they are in the middle of a crisis. So get prepared long before the crisis hits.
To read my articles published by Law.com and others on this subject, please visit my LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/richkleinny and scroll to the bottom to download a PDF (Box.net). You can also learn more at http://www.LawFirmsPR.com. If you need help with a brewing crisis, please email rich@LawFirmsPR.com or call 646-789-5459.