Big companies have been making the headlines recently in ways that they would rather avoid. And these are organizations who have dedicated teams of communications professionals and public relations agencies – plus lots of lawyers – to help them think through both advance crisis plans and reactive situations. Your organization may not have hundreds of millions of dollars in stock market value at risk, but a crisis communications plan is still essential.

Recently, a friend who is board chair of a local animal-focused non-profit asked me for advice about an emerging public relations situation that was facing her organization. Other consultants at AmplifyDMC have also been asked by clients for counsel on emerging public relations threats. Another client approached AmplifyDMC for help developing a plan to address a potentially contentious event at her organization. Thankfully for all of these organizations, nothing came of these situations. However, in most cases they revealed gaps in planning and caused unneeded stress.

Here are a few easy things to do to avoid finding yourself in this situation:

  • Spend time at the senior staff and board levels thinking through the types of challenges that your organization may face. Common scenarios might include financial mismanagement, a service delivery issue, or an unplanned leadership transition.
  • Discuss and document who can speak on behalf of the organization to staff, clients, donors, investors, and the media. Determine the types of situations that may require external legal or public relations advice.
  • Practice. Even if you feel a little silly, there is no substitute for walking through the steps of responding to a crisis. It’s one of the reasons schools and other institutions have fire drills! To take that analogy just a little bit further, the drill reveals how long it takes to respond and which doors you can’t go through. Practicing your response to challenging situations that may face your organization can provide the same insights.

Building and testing a robust crisis communications and response plan can be intimidating and there are always more factors to consider including when to make updates to an organizational website and social media channels. But taking time now to create a plan may be just what you need to prevent a mistake or unexpected event from turning into a crisis.