Last week, Solomon McCown participated in a table top discussion on crisis planning with members of the private and public sectors from the Greater Boston community. With the past few weeks mired in acts of mass violence from Paris to San Bernardino, California, the topic was all too timely.

Presented with a hypothetical scenario, the participants were led through a discussion of how their respective organizations would react to the situation at hand. The diversity of organizations present made for an incredibly thoughtful and proactive dialogue. The public sector was represented by local and state police and fire, federal security agencies and disaster preparedness organizations, while large financial institutions, universities and health care providers contributed to the conversation from the private sector. In an informal back-and-forth, each entity presented their safety protocols, asked probing questions on best practices and ultimately, walked away with tangible ways to improve their preparedness when presented with a crisis situation.

With 20 years of crisis experience, SM& joined the conversation to contribute ideas and guidance from a communications planning perspective. Whether you are a large institution or on the frontlines of government, we all need to be prepared to handle the unexpected. Here are some key takeaways from last week’s event that will help all of us respond to a crisis situation:

  • Be prepared:
    • Having a plan in place that allows you to anticipate a situation before it occurs better prepares you and your organization to act when and if a situation arises.
  • Roll with the punches:
    • In a moment of crisis, new facts develop quickly. As more information is presented, it is important to adjust your message and your reaction strategy accordingly.
  • Communicate your message:
    • Although crisis situations can be complicated and ever evolving, it is important to provide a strong and concise message before the public jumps to conclusions.
  • Know your audience:
    • Only share information you are willing to see in a newspaper. You may want to discuss one message with staff or shareholders and something different with a TV camera, but with modern technology, these lines can quickly be blurred.

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