Long before any incident, the team should develop a detailed checklist of what the organization must do; it should describe responsibilities starting with the first hour, and every person on the crisis communications team should have his or her own checklists of tasks that must be done during a crisis.
DelBuono said spokespeople should be designated ahead of time as well. The designated speaker should be trained on the message and trusted not to go off message.
Typically, this will be a senior manager, and that might be something that top management considers when promoting employees into those positions. “If you can’t trust a [person] to go on camera and deliver a message for the organization, then maybe the person is not ready for promotion or senior positions,” he said.
DelBuono said that whoever is designated as the spokesperson must be in touch with the local authorities and would ideally be involved in public briefings with the authorities when allowed. Local authorities will call the shots, but a good relationship will help the company have more control over such issues as where press conferences are held.
The organization may also want to designate someone to monitor Twitter and other Internet sites regularly to see if anyone is frequently posting negative comments about the company; those may become the loudest critics of the organization when an incident occurs. The company should also include the Internet and newer communication media in its communication plans; for example, they should be aware of who the influential bloggers are and reach out to them in an effort to ensure fair and positive coverage.
After an event is over, the facility might become a location for makeshift memorials, which will also attract media attention. The company may need to move the memorial if it’s in an inconvenient location or disruptive to daily business, but management should try to do so in a way that minimizes the risk that the organization will be perceived as insensitive or of wanting to hide the memorial.