Tanner Friedman
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The Unavoidable Crisis - Are You Ready?

By Don Tanner

Whether you own a business or manage a company, franchise or other endeavor, you know that proper planning and foresight is key to long-term viability and success. Undoubtedly, you spend considerable time and financial resources preparing putting together business plans and formulating goals and performance forecasts.

Yet, beyond the basic tools and the obvious liability safeguards, have you really accomplished all you can to ensure the long-term viability of your business? Are you adequately prepared in the advent of a crisis and, importantly, how that crisis might reflect upon you and your company? Chances are you are not. And you're not alone.

Statistics show that more than half of all companies do not have a crisis communications plan in place* despite very real dangers inherent in today's litigious society. An accusation of sexual harassment. Rumor of fraud. A product suspected of causing illness. Robbery, injury or death on your property or related to your operations. Misfortunes you do not want associated with your company or reputation.

Think such crises will never happen to you? Think again. Statistics, in fact, demonstrate that the conventional business will need to confront a significant crisis at least once every four to five years. If you think you can "keep a lid" on such crises, you're deluding yourself and flirting with real disaster.

The Current Climate

At no other time has it been easier to transfer information "good or bad" across the room or across a continent in mere milliseconds. While email, text messaging and cell phones add speed in conducting day-to-day business, these innovations also make it virtually impossible to control who learns of what, when. More often than not, bad news finds it way into a newsroom via such technology and, from there, to the public airwaves and the World Wide Web.

Keep in mind is that we are currently living in an environment where the general public is often distrustful of companies and their products. The media, meanwhile, is all too ready to exploit that fact.

Preparation

The mantra here is: Be prepared; be very prepared. This means having a crisis communications strategy devised, discussed, approved, rehearsed and in place before something happens. It's analogous to having health insurance in place. If you wait until you are sick to secure the insurance, it is already too late.

When formulating a crisis communications plan, it is vital to keep in mind that you are going to want it to encompass not just the media but several different audiences, external and, importantly, internal, such as employees. Once your internal house is in order, it is then prudent to approach clients and customers and, from there, members of the media, as deemed necessary. The public wants and demands forthright. They expect the truth; for someone in authority to take responsibility for their actions. And, they want to know that whoever is responsible is committed to making things right.

Foresight, planning and timely action are all important considerations in the development and implementation of an effective crisis communications plan; a vital component of doing business that should be as much a part of your company's operating stratagem as balance sheets and economic forecasts.

*Source: KPMG



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