Crisis training, crisis management, call it what you want, a lot of people come to us and say they need it. If that’s you, you’ve probably had an issue that goes something like this. Your business has been around for a while. Your communications have been fine. Something goes wrong or is about to go wrong.

You call in the crisis training specialists, quickly. You need some help and you need it fast. You’re not trying to dodge the issue, far from it, but you need the right people to be commenting in the right places with the right messages.

So far so good. Only it may already be too late.

Crisis training and stable doors

Our lead trainer Guy was at a client site on Friday helping them with some crisis training. We’re absolutely not going to divulge the nature of the crisis because we assure everyone of confidentiality when we train them. They were in the middle of an issue that was going to end up in court. They had their own legal advice (take legal advice only from lawyers!) but they were wondering how to communicate in public.

They were pretty good as it happens, taking the issue seriously, bringing their empathy to the situation, keeping all stakeholders informed and ensuring they didn’t speculate about what the legal outcome might be. It was lucky they were a capable group of people. They employed hundreds if not thousands of people so there was always going to be an issue sometime.

Unfortunately they only asked for the training once the crisis was underway. This can be an error.

When do you take out life insurance?

The client is going to be fine, they were more than capable. The thing is, you’re better off making plans for a crisis when there is nothing going wrong. The best time to start planning for a decent pension is in your twenties, thirties at the latest; we know too many people who have reached their fifties and are suddenly thinking “I should do something about this” (which is easy to say when heating bills are going through the roof, we do get that). If you’re in danger of losing a loved one imminently nobody is going to insure you – you need that life assurance when you’re in good health, it’ll be cheaper and it’s easier to think about when it’s a far away prospect.

Ditto crisis training and, come to think of it, media training in general. We’ve had a lot of clients coming to us because they have a media engagement or presentation coming up the following week and they want to look professional. We can always help and ensure people improve but planning further in advance is going to leave you more confident when something crops up.

This is particularly important when a crisis comes up. You need to be ready before anything flares up and if it never does, fine. Just in case, it’s worth having a checklist.

Crisis training: some basics

We have a crisis management specialist on the books, Carl Courtney, who can offer chapter and verse on what needs to happen to be prepared for a crisis. Some basics might include:

  • A policy on exactly what happens when something bad takes place. This needs to be locked down and to take account of the unofficial as well as official approaches. You’ll want to start with a list of who us authorised and who is not authorised to speak to the press.
  • You’ll also need some guidance as to what happens, if your workplace is well known, when a journalist turns up and asks people questions as they arrive or leave their workplace, assuming you don’t have working from home as a universal policy.
  • Ideally everyone who isn’t authorised to speak to the press will point people towards the statement. Statement?
  • Preparing a statement: You need to decide who will prepare a statement and where you’ll put it so it’s accessible to everyone. Your website and social media channels are ideal. This gets your unauthorised people away from having to say “no comment”, when they’ll feel completely unsupported.
  • Train everyone not to say “no comment”. It sounds so much like a confirmation or evasion. “I’m not authorised to comment but we have a statement on the website which I hope will help” sounds much, much better even if it basically means the same thing.
  • If a situation is developing, frequent updates are better than a single bland statement and then leaving it at that. If journalists, bloggers and other influencers don’t hear an update from you, they may hear it from someone else.
  • Prepare all of this, other than the statement (of course), before there is a crisis. You’ll be able to address it more calmly and take more time, and yes we know you’re already busy!

The other thing we’d recommend, and this is of course where we have to declare a vested interest, is having someone else come in and have a look at your plan and maybe put you through your paces in an interview situation. Even in the presence of a very friendly camera operator (and ours are friendly and offer loads of pointers and advice!) the physical presence of proper camera equipment and lighting kit is a very different experience from any in-house run-throughs you might arrange.

The aim is never to gloss over a crisis. If you’re not taking the likelihood of a major issue sometime seriously that’s a serious error in its own right. The aim is to help you communicate your side of it, get away from defensiveness and ensure that your voice is heard and understood when any coverage looks as if it’s going to go against you.

Do you or your clients need help with your media engagements and interview and presentation skills, whether on-camera or not? We have experienced people who can help – contact our calendar supremo Lindsay in the first instance by clicking here and she will set up an initial conversation with Guy to find out how we can help.