PR book On-line Readings in Public Relations by Michael Turney
Stay well-informed to be ready when a crisis hits
© 2011; 2018 Michael Turney Table of contents Practicing Public Relations
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Outlining the steps to take when a crisis hits is the most important part of crisis communication planning, but it's not everything. Projecting the likelihood of a crisis and having a sense of how your constituencies will react are also important. The first depends on your skills-training. The latter two would call for a crystal ball if it weren't for the annual crisis communication reports issued by the Institute for Crisis Management.

My article Maintain some perspective: Don't be a crisis communication hypochondriac addresses the importance of maintaining a sensible perspective and reasonable balance when you consider crisis communication. It urges you to realistically consider the likelihood that you and your organization will face a crisis, but it also warns you not to blow this possibility out of proportion or let it dominate your professional life. There is as much danger in over-stressing, over-preparing, and becoming a crisis hypochondriac as there is in being blase, oblivious, and unprepared when a crisis hits.

The question that article didn't address is: How can you keep crisis communication and the need to prepare for it in perspective?

Use information to keep the possibility of having a crisis in perspective.

Stay focused and don't perform your job on "auto pilot."

Obtaining the first type of information should be a daily part of your job. You should always stay alert and be vigilant about what's going on around you, and you need to get out of your office to meet and talk with people throughout your organization, - The whole organization, not just your own department! - Pay attention to what you see happening, instead of relying on reports that present the "company line" about what was done. And, ask lots of questions. Be sure you really understand what you're seeing and hearing and that you can explain why these things are going on.

Regularly wandering around to thoroughly explore your "territory" (organization) and stay in touch with the people in it is one of the most valuable things a public relations professional can do.

Note: If you've never read any books or articles espousing management by walking around (MBWA) or, as some cynical critics call it, management by wandering around, it might be good to do so. MBWA was initially advocated by Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett who co-founded Hewlett-Packard. It gained more widespread popularity when Tom Peters wrote about it in his books and articles on excellence.

Understand more than your own organization.

You can obtain the second type of information, knowlege of the broader industry in which your organization operates, by reading trade journals and blogs, participating in listservs, and becoming active in the professional organizations that serve the industry. - Note: This does not mean joining PRSA, IABC, or other communication organizations. Although they can be useful to you and, as a communication practitioner, you ought to be active in them, they won't tell you much, if anything at all, about the competitive environment in which your company is operating. - You need to be aware of and up to date on your own organization's primary industry whether it's manufacturing, mining, retail sales, investment banking, medicine, hotel and restaurant management, or ...

Be aware of what crises are happening elsewhere.

The third type of information, a broad picture of recent crises, has historically been the hardest to obtain. Until recently, those who wanted it had to gather and compile it for themselves. That meant assigning people to monitor local and national media, trade journals, and professional conferences and workshops to collect and analyze every relevant scrap of information on business crises. It was a very time and labor-intensive process, and few organizations or individuals had the resources or the desire to do it. Fortunately, things have changed.

The Institute for Crisis Management (ICM) of Louisville, Kentucky now does crisis monitoring on a worldwide basis and makes its findings readily available to anyone who's interested in them. ICM was founded in 1989 to specifically focus on crisis communication planning, training and consulting. Its clients now include Fortune 500 companies, mega-conglomerates, and small businesses, and they literally span the globe. Visit the ICM website [] for more detail about its philosophy, services, and clients.

The ICM product that's most relevant to this discussion is its Annual ICM Crisis Report. It offers a full-year snapshot of all the crises that hit businesses during the past year and analyzes the media attention they received. It's a great synthesis and a wonderful way to gain perspective. And, the short, public version of the report is free to anyone who wants to download it from the ICM website.

Use this link to download the most recent annual version of the ICM Crisis Report. It will download as a pdf file. It's one of the best ways to annually ensure you have a realistic perspective on your organization's need for a crisis communication plan.

Overview of crisis communication
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Don't be a crisis hypochondriac Planning for a crisis
Performing public relations in a crisis Coping when a crisis hits Practicing Public Relations
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5 August 2018