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Five Things Your Organization Can Do In Advance to Prepare for a Crisis

Sep 23, 2020
From developing a triage plan to engaging donors, allies, and your board, here are ways to prepare

As part of our series on preparing for rapid response, here’s a checklist of five things your organization can do internally to be ready when important news breaks.

Do you have a “triage” plan for managing and prioritizing inbound press calls as well as for managing outbound media engagement priorities? 

Not all reporters or outlets are equally valuable. And answering emails or fielding phone calls from some may detract from reaching others. It’s a best practice to have someone “on point” for fielding calls and managing the best use of your spokespeople’s time. 

Do you have an established internal system for reporting critical information while excluding non-critical information?

In most breaking news scenarios, there is a certain amount of reporting that is incorrect or misleading, or both. When our own team is in crisis management mode, we typically assign one person to track breaking news developments, determine which are verified and which are important, and report those developments back to the team. This is a good role for someone who is not a spokesperson, but who understands your strategic goals. 

Is your communication plan integrated with your development plan? Are you set up to communicate to your supporters in real time and give them opportunities to support your work?

Your supporters contribute to your organization because they care about, and share, your goals. Sometimes they may want to share their ideas, but almost always, they’ll want to know what you are doing to respond to the crisis. Be proactive. Plan on sending a quick update within 24 hours and reporting on your work. Donors will appreciate being included and hearing the “inside story” and providing updates will help them feel a part of the solution. 

Do you have a list of allies/partners that you can call to assist in deploying the rapid response plan? 

It’s one thing to have allies, and another to have them prepped to support your goals in a critical time. Every organization will know its own unique circumstances best, but reaching out in advance to your most consequential allies and sharing your goals can be enormously valuable. Press statements from influential allies—like the local faith community, for example—can help shape the narrative to your desired ends. 

Do you have a plan for managing non-media inquiries and/or offers of help that might normally require senior-level attention, but that may distract from public communications? 

Oftentimes, in a crisis, Board members, major donors, or significant political allies will reach out to offer help, but managing those important relationships can take time away from media engagement. Designating a senior staff person or Board member to field those calls can help keep your rapid response plan on task.

What are other ways to prepare your internal organization’s plan to respond in a crisis? Let us know @rethink_media.