That call is coming…and it doesn’t care what time it is

Five actions that make late night crisis calls easier to handle

Ever notice when the phone rings at 2 a.m. it’s never good news? All the fun stuff (birthday greetings, winning lottery ticket confirmations, etc.) waits for civilized, daylight hours to announce themselves. The reality is, if your phone starts ringing in the middle of the night, something has likely gone wrong.

For the crisis communications consultant, the after-midnight call is part of life. The path we chose is both challenging and rewarding. Helping clients navigate the lifecycle of a crisis that threatens their brand and sometimes stakeholders themselves is what we plan and train for. In those instances, the time of day becomes incidental very quickly.

During Branigan Communication’s 25 years working in crisis communications we have managed many client crises, and have learned from every single one of them. While no two are the same, there are some best practices you can deploy to mobilize quickly and mitigate the impact of a crisis. Following these steps will help your company get ahead and stay ahead when the unexpected happens.

1. GO Team Assemble: Your response team should be comprised of leaders from the key functional areas of your organization (communications, operations, human resources, information technology, legal, etc.). Each person should be pre-authorized to make decisions. If every stage of your response needs to be approved by 15 people, you’re doing it wrong.

2. Ensure Chain of Custody with a Hotline: Digital telephony solutions today are sophisticated and capable of texting and emailing a summary of the situation to the GO Team. This approach ensures that your team knows what is happening immediately, and makes coordination simple, even if some members are on vacation or unreachable.

3. Have a Plan: The misconception here is that plans are cost-prohibitive. While some are extensive (which for large companies with global operations and multiple market segments is necessary), sometimes all it takes is determining the first 6 to 8 steps to take in a crisis, and posting the list in non-public areas. That document is invaluable when crises occur, and should include things such as a hotline number and crisis assessment protocol. Your end game is to get accurate information to the GO Team so informed decisions can be made quickly.

4. Maintain Accurate Contact Information: It sounds obvious, but once your team is in place make sure their contact information is accurate and regularly updated in all materials and on everyone’s mobile phones. People switch jobs, retire, etc. and the last thing you want is to call the head of IT at 2 a.m. only to have KFC pick up. Unless, of course, your head of IT is at KFC at 2 a.m., which may warrant an entirely different discussion.

5. Channel Aristotle: Aristotle famously wrote about The Good, which relates to virtue and happiness in the largest sense. If your team channels The Good as it reacts to the crisis; if it is transparent and committed to both protecting the company’s reputation and doing what is right by customers, the duration of the crisis, regardless of the exigence, will be shortened.

Just as every conflict ends so does every crisis. Following these five tips has helped us do right by clients, minimize brand damage and drastically reduce negative exposure.