Here’s one way to build your Organization’s Crisis Communications Team Plan (and also start your Crisis Communications Plan itself – to boot!):
- Get your organization’s management team to buy-in and support this concept first. There will be costs to developing and maintaining both the team and the communications messages themselves. Make sure to include risk management and legal council.
- Organize the preliminary members of your Crisis Communications Team – they will be your initial design team for the Crisis Communications Team Plan and also the Crisis Communications Plan. The first is a broader plan covering the “before, during and after” all types of incidents. The second is the specific messaging templates, checklists/steps, protocols, etc. used by the Crisis Communications Team during the actual Crisis Response for your Organization. You will find that the Crisis Communications Plan can somewhat build itself, especially when you have already designd the Team plan and worked through a number of exercises.
- Have your team run through our course Everyone Needs a Crisis Communications Team. You can have them do this individually or as a group – or both. Either way – figure out where you want the “practice” material to be stored (We have a Workshop repository – the comments section below! – where you can share your example work and see the work of other organization’s students). These workshop units have sections where the team members (and you) can develop sample communications templates, team organization charts, training lists, etc. – If you feel this information is proprietary and/or confidential, tell your team where to store these working examples. You may want to establish a cloud-based repository (like an MS-Teams Group, or Dropbox folder) where this “Real Life” information can be stored and shared only within your team.
- Build your Crisis Communications Team Plan through the course and also the subset Crisis Communications Plan. These could be annexes (add-ons) to a more general Emergency Action Plan (also called a Crisis Action Plan):
5. Exercise your Crisis Communications Team Plan, evaluate the exercise results and modify the plan accordingly. Then Exercise again (both repetitively to “fix” what was “broken” and in a more complex manner to find out what you might have missed). See our Blog on something called “the pink slice” – what you do not know you do not know. We have a few exercises that can help. See our Crisis Communications Team TTX – Winter Storm, Crisis Communications Team Table Top Exercise – Tornado, and Crisis Communications Team Table Top Exercise – Rats!! (A Fictitious Disaster) exercises.
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Active Shooter incidents are the worst-case scenario for any organization’s crisis communications team. Here’s a bit of a case study from an incident in the U.S. in 2017 at a UPS facility in San Francisco. Three people were killed by a co-worker and others were injured. When one Google’s “ups statement workplace shooting 2017” to look for crisis communications messages, near the top of the results box is a statement from the Teamster’s Union President (https://teamster.org/2017/06/hoffa-statement-workplace-shooting-ups-san-francisco/) which was made that same day. UPS had a statement, which was picked up by many media outlets, but also occurring that day were other shooting incidents in other media markets (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/06/15/ups-gunman-filed-a-workplace-grievance-three-months-before-deadly-shooting-spree/). A few years later, some impacted families filed lawsuits against UPS, the building’s owner and security firm. https://www.courthousenews.com/at-trial-over-shooting-ups-and-allied-deflect-blame/ https://www.sfexaminer.com/news/lawsuits-allege-security-firm-allowed-ups-gunman-to-enter-facility-with-weapons/article_71a6ae52-09d4-5f10-b5ec-147c53d5006f.html