Magazine article Security Management

The 10 Steps of Crisis Management

Magazine article Security Management

The 10 Steps of Crisis Management

Article excerpt

A security guard commits a crime while on duty.

An alarm system fails, resulting in properly loss.

Employees go on strike, accusing you of unfair labor practices.

Your company is acquiring another firm. Almost all employees will be retained, and everyone will profit. FOR COMMUNICATIONS PURPOSES, these situations-all real-life examples from the security industry-are crises. The negative impact of the first three is fairly obvious, but even in the last, good-news situation, the following crisis management reactions are warranted:

* ensuring simultaneous, accurate communication of the completed deal to employees of both firms involved, assuring them of their future job status

* assuring all clients of both firms that their service will not be disrupted

* ensuring that the media reports the news as a positive development

* countering competitors' attempts to steal business by claiming that this particular merger stretches the firm's resources too far

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as a business without crises. Perception is as damaging as reality. If any of your internal or external audiences think-or might think-you have

a problem, then your communications program needs to address their concerns.

You have two choices: prepare for crisis or just react to crisis. The longer it takes to react effectively, the greater the potential for damage. This is increasingly true in our world of instant communication, a world where bad news is a favorite of sensation-hungry American media audiences.

"We had our crisis planned to the gills, " says Tom Wathen, chairman and chief executive officer of then-CPP Security. His company's acquisition of Pinkerton's Inc. created one of the world's largest suppliers of security services.

How many of you have sold your services with the "prevention is far less costly than crime" pitch? Well, proactive preparation for crises will cost you less than postevent reaction. Yet the vast majority of American businesses do not include crisis preparation in their business or marketing plans. This article is intended to facilitate that preparation, as most of these management steps can be done well in advance of any crisis.

While any individual crisis mandates some customized responses, preparation can be divided into 10 basic steps.

1. Identify your crsis management team. A small team of senior executives should be identified as your company's crisis management team. Typically, the team is led by the company CEO, with the firm's top marketing or public relations executive as his or her chief adviser. Other team members should be the heads of major company divisions, including legal, financial, personnel, and operations departments. The same principle applies in a small firm, but some individuals may wear several hats. If your in-house resources are not sufficient to handle the work a crisis may generate, you should identify outside consultants such as law firms, accounting firms, or public relations agencies that can supply senior executives for your crisis management team on short notice.

"The team leader doesn't just lead meetings," stressed Wathen. "He or she is also responsible for monitoring how the plan is executed to ensure details are carried out and to adapt to changing situations as necessary."

2. Identify spokespersons. Within each team, individuals should be authorized as the only ones to speak for the company in times of crisis. The CEO should be one spokesperson, but not necessarily the primary one. The fact is that some chief executives are brilliant business people but not very effective in-person communicators. That doesn't matter in written communication and may not matter for some audiences. Often, however, image communicates as strongly or more strongly than facts, as politicians know well. Hence, communication skills are one of the primary criteria in choosing a spokesperson. …

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