Planning is critical. With the news environment operating 24/7, amplified by the speed of social media, news can leak in an instant and spread globally in a matter of seconds, witness the SVB crisis. While it’s crucial to comply with all government rules and regs, it was the lack of a solid, vetted communications strategy that kicked off the waterfall effect that led to a bank run with devastating effects. Crisis planning anticipates problems before they happen and enables you to contain the situation and maintain control.
Whether it’s a banking shakeup or a matter of personal safety, every company should have a crisis plan in place to minimize exposure by assessing the situation in real time, identifying and contacting stakeholders and outside experts (i.e. emergency services, lawyers, accountants, law enforcement, security, IT, etc.), building a media strategy – internal and external, determining the role the CEO will play, handling the press including social media, preparing for interviews (or steering clear of them), monitoring and, if appropriate, considering other program initiatives. A crisis framework will provide a structure for handling any crisis that a company encounters and should be updated twice a year to account for new information.
Here are a few things to consider when setting up a crisis plan:
- Conduct interviews with stakeholders to identify potential emergencies and determine their relative risk.
- Identify your crisis leadership team. Who is in charge, and who is responsible for what.
- Ask smart questions to determine business impact in light of internal and external factors
- Build a communication strategy – internal and external – taking into account the impact of the news on each audience. Here are a few of the key questions to ask:
- What do we know about the situation, what don’t we know and when will we know it?
- What will be the impact when we tell people what we know about the crisis? Could it make matters better or worse, or have no effect?
- What steps will we take to address the crisis, and what will we tell people about those actions?
- When will we announce what we know about the situation?
- Who are the most important audiences that we should tell about the crisis?
- How will we share that information?
5. Plan your response with a practical activation plan, making sure to incorporate all phases into that plan including resolution and recovery. For added insight, it’s wise to look at other crisis responses. In the case of SVB, it appears that nobody anticipated the impact of the initial press release on the banks’ customers and the industry at large. Key questions had not been asked before they issued it and within a day, dramatic/devastating effects were felt.
6. Rehearse. Once a crisis framework has been developed, it must be tested. A tabletop simulation allows participants to put the plan to the test in an informal setting. These exercises are used to clarify roles and responsibilities and identify additional preparedness needs. The exercise should result in action plans for continued improvement of the crisis framework.
7. Finally, revisit the framework and update it at least once a year to incorporate new eventualities, personnel, platforms and processes.
Because the SVB crisis has had industry-wide impact, it’s also valuable to review reactions of other companies affected by these events. As outlined in this blog from Rally Point PR, Twitter seemed to be the platform of choice in most cases to communicate support for SVB or distance themselves from it. Others had their CEOs provide commentary to the press, generating news coverage which they could in turn share, and in some cases, they even responded by actually providing financial support for affected clients.