Who Gets It? The Surprising Reality of Crisis Communications Plans

Who gets it?By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

“Only the people who get it.” That was my answer to a frustrated colleague.

“Crisis communications is critical to our company,” she said. “But I can’t convince my boss that I need time and money to write a crisis communications plan. I’ve sat in your workshops at IABC, PRSA, plus the one you did for our state chemical association.”

Her frustration escalated.

“We handle freaking hazardous and toxic chemicals that can kill people and we still don’t have a crisis communications plan,” she fumed. “And I don’t have time to write it. And they won’t give me money to bring you in. They say we’ll just figure it out. They don’t get it. How can they NOT get it?”

“The ego of executives often overrides their common sense or logic sensors,” I explained. “Most will hire a consultant to write an emergency operations plan and maybe a business continuity plan. They’ll pay big bucks. But they think communications during an emergency is something that they will just magically figure out on the day of their crisis. They refuse to allocate less than $10,000 for a world-class crisis communications plan.”

“I just got off of the phone with a power company CEO who is facing a customer uprising because of high winter bills,” I told her. “He told me, ‘We won’t be needing your plan. We just wrote an Emergency Operations Plan.’”

“He doesn’t get it, and me having an extended conversation and educating him wasn’t going to change a thing. He’ll never hire me,” I explained. “He doesn’t get it.”

Many of you are in the same boat. Communications is undervalued. Executives think it is easy and fast.

As a guy who earns his living writing crisis communications plans, it is a difficult sell every day.

It doesn’t necessarily help that I’ve figured out how to package a year’s worth of work into a two-day, turnkey workshop that delivers a crisis communications plan plus 100 pre-written news releases. Executives look at cost over value.

Here are some of the selling points that I use, which may help you with your discussions with your superiors:

  • Always calculate the combined damage to reputation and revenue when considering a crisis communication plan. If the financial damage of a single event exceeds the cost of your crisis communications plan, it is a no-brainer to purchase the crisis communications plan.
  • Not every crisis is a fire and explosion. Sexual harassment and data breeches can be just as damaging to your reputation and revenue.
  • Often, you will use your crisis communications plan even when you do not use your Emergency Operations Plan (Incident Command Plan) or your Business Continuity Plan (BCP).
  • The presence of social media makes it impossible to control the narrative if your plan doesn’t have a full library of pre-written news releases that can be edited and shared with all stakeholders during the first 30 minutes of an event.

Even with those points, many executives “don’t get it.” I’ve had to build my business off of working only with the people who “get it.”

My advice to those of you who are frustrated is to take a deep breath and then fight for what is right. If your boss won’t give you the tools to do your job, it never hurts to look for a job with a boss who gets it.

If you need to have a “therapy session” and talk, give me a call at 985-624-9976.

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