In the previous chapter it is described that quality policies and such cannot rule out the possibility of a crisis. A structured approach based on prevention can however reduce the recurring feeling that a crisis is unexpected and uncontrollable (see figure 4). And on this last remark, no crisis is ever the same as another and true control of the events during a crisis is given the nature of the phenomenon not (at least not directly) possible. What can be controlled and managed is the communication. Figure 4 Scheme of Crisis Policy 2.
Crisis plan No organisation can be expected to be prepared in detail for every possible crisis. Besides this practically no crisis can be compared to the next one and especially crises that have the makings of a (big) disaster, like explosions, aeroplane accidents et cetera have characteristics which make improvisation and creative and alert action absolutely necessary. Then again, this cannot be a reason not to have a structured preparation, culminating in a crisis plan, just because the reality is always different to what you prepared for.
The opposite is true; the unexpected nature of a crisis makes planning before the crisis happens necessary. Because when a crisis is at hand there is no time to make a plan. The ensuing improvisation will lead to a lack of accuracy, contradicting orders and in the worst case scenario to chaos and mistakes that makes the situation worse. In all likelihood there will not only be material damage but also massive immaterial damage: when a ‘small accident’ is poorly handled in terms of public relations, the ‘dent’ in the image of the organisation will be bigger than the immediate costs of the accident itself.
There are also examples of companies that handled big disasters in such a manner that they’re good name was not or hardly hurt at all. This is only possible when prevention is combined with an anticipating policy resulting in a plan. The main purpose of this policy and plan is: * To take of structured measures so that crises en their negative influence on the name and image of the organisation can be controlled and contained as much as possible; * To foresee in a structure that enables the persons involved in resolving and fighting the crisis can do their job with as little disturbance as possible;
Creating the possibilities and taking measures to ensure that communication with the relevant target groups is as good as possible and in case of a crisis at least with the press. A secondary goal of the crisis plan concerns ‘containment’. In the early stages of a crisis it is often difficult to ascertain what the scale and impact of the crisis will be. But it is of great importance to ascertain this as quickly as possible, especially in relation to the relation- and target groups involved.
A pre-prepared crisis plan can be of use in weighing the pros and cons and enables the organisation to ascertain how far the consequences of the crisis will reach. This conclusion also has consequences for the way in which the communication is handled. A good crisis plan (see figure 6 at the end of this chapter) begins with a policy statement in which the management of the organisation give an outline on the importance and goals of the crisis policy and the crisis plan (see figure 5 on the next page).
Next the possible crises at their consequences are described so that the organisation gets more aware of the hidden risks. The largest part of the plan described the different tasks, procedures that need to be followed, the organisational measures and procedures concerning internal and external communication. A god crisis plan also contains pre-prepared concept texts for different kind of news reports. In case of a real crisis time this will save time because only factual data needs to be added.
The main function of the crisis plan is to assure that an optimal report and communication structure is in place. It is a work document that enables functionaries to carry out their task in connection with other functionaries. Short descriptions of responsibilities, tasks and procedures are the first requirements. The reason for this is when a crisis is really developing there is not enough time to read through a thick document. It is common sense that all factual data (telephone numbers and such) need to be correct and thus need to be updated regularly, but in reality this proves to be a real problem.
The crisis plan is something different than a disaster plan that are drawn up by regional and local governments and companies that are required to do this by law. Crisis planning and crisis communication are based on threats and not just on disasters. Of course it’s useful to get acquainted with disaster plans while drawing up a crisis plan. In any case it is necessary to let the crisis plan link up with the structures and communication procedures as given in the disaster plans.