Eileen Petridis | October 19, 2023
At home and abroad, the world is on edge. That tension fuels passion that urges people to speak out, whether through peaceful protest, social media debate, heated arguments and so on.
Whether you’re a large corporation, a small nonprofit or a university teeming with students eager to exercise their right to freedom of speech, these events serve as potential threats to the stability and reputation of your organization.
When emotions run high, a heated conversation around the water cooler could quickly turn your otherwise peaceful work environment upside down.
So how prepared are you if a protest or argument on your property escalates? Would you know how to respond to customers or the media? How would you communicate a sense of calm if an act of worksite violence occurred in your offices? Do you have the right support to make sure your people are taken care of and get the help they need should such a situation take place? What is effective communication during a crisis?
Less than half of CEOs believe their organizations are prepared to deal with an array of potential crises, according to The Conference Board’s C-Suite Outlook 2023. Even for organizations that do have formal emergency communication plans in place, they might be outdated, irrelevant, not detailed enough, or unrealistic given existing in-house resources.
Who at your organization would have the authority to call a situation a crisis? And what exactly constitutes a crisis? Is it one student with a bloody nose? Is it only if you have to call the police? Is it one negative news story? What kind of potential adverse events or issues could pose a threat to your people, brand, reputation, or operations?
Everyone’s threshold for what constitutes a crisis is different. But if you have an event or series of events quickly escalating on your property or involving your people, you have a “situation” on your hands. One that requires skilled handling and thoughtful response - with little time to prepare.
To help you understand your organization’s readiness level, consider your answer to these questions:
Even when you’ve emerged from the heat of the moment, what else needs to be done? Who else requires a phone call or email? Will this affect donors or investors and their confidence in supporting you financially? Should outside legal counsel be contacted? If so, when? How will communications and legal counsel work in tandem to ensure your messaging is caring without implying guilt?
When it comes to crisis preparedness, the best defense is a good offense. Unfortunately, avoiding a crisis isn’t always realistic. But there are steps you can take as an organization to help manage risks and cool rising tempers. It starts by stopping those conversations and activities that lend themselves to allowing extreme feelings to percolate. Consider:
No organization hit with a crisis ever said it wished it would not have spent so much time planning or preparing. Especially in today’s political environment — at home and abroad — you must assume you are vulnerable. That makes this an ideal time to revisit existing plans and create new ones while objectively assessing your in-house capabilities and need for outside help.
If you’d like to learn more about how Falls & Co can help you prepare for issues and manage crisis communications, we’d love to hear from you.
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Eileen Petridis is a senior vice president at Falls & Co. and regularly supports the agency’s crisis and reputation management team.