Just Another Tricky Day: Crisis Communications Part 1.

Developing your firm’s response to a crisis: The Timing Principle

Years ago, when I first started managing crisis communications for a major financial services provider, my husband created a music playlist to accompany my commute (and work) for the most challenging of crisis response days.  The playlist included The Who’s “Another Tricky Day” along with some well-known songs from various “Rocky” film soundtracks. Having the right theme songs to get you through the crisis du jour is certainly helpful, but having a pre-planned position on how you respond to a crisis is critical.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a cookie-cutter solution for every crisis, or every business. But there are some basic principles you can develop to help guide your crisis communications response. Once you have these principles established, you’ll save precious time when you’re in the moment.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of the principles I’ve seen at play in crisis communications from both direct experience, and observation of others.  In this post, I’m presenting some thoughts about the principle of timing.

How you time your communication to employees, clients, and the public is one of the first key principles in your crisis response plan. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How quickly are you going to communicate? The impulse may be “ASAP” but you’ll want to weigh the communication timeline with the facts you have on hand. Depending on the situation, you may not want to go there out with something that is not complete, or incorrect.
  • What is the order in which you’ll communicate? For example, you may want to build in enough time to make sure that all internal stakeholders are communicated to first, before they may hear about the issue from a client (awkward!).
  • What are the legal obligations around the timing of a communication? This is where your legal and compliance experts can help you determine any hard requirements, based on the issue at hand. There may even be finer details, like what requirements are there at a state level.
  • What are the physical limitations on timing? This starts to get into another key principle—channel. If you need to mail a written communication to a population, there are going to be additional challenges when it comes to time. Especially if it is a large mailing. It may be good to establish ahead of time (i.e. before the next crisis) what typical turnaround schedules might exist for print production. You may even go so far as having a print vendor or letter shop at the ready for urgent situations.

Give these questions some thought, and perhaps even start a draft document for your crisis response plan. Or if you have one documented already, consider reviewing it to make sure these questions are addressed.