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2015: Lessons learned, part II

RiskRewardIn part one of this series we looked at four lessons discussed in a recent MIR3 webinar, 2015: A Year of Crisis and Communication. In this post, we’ll continue to examine how you can prepare your organization for potential future disasters.

Lesson Five: Complete, accurate data is critical to communication

Incorrect or incomplete contact information creates obstacles for communication. It’s not enough to have just one way of reaching recipients (like a business phone number). Instead, every communication needs to be delivered in as many ways as possible (think cell, home phone, email, SMS, etc.).


Use incentives and reminders to get employees to provide complete contact information and keep it current, perhaps by using a self-service portal where your staff can update records themselves.

Carefully consider all other stakeholder contact data you need, including vendors, the press, your board, etc. Find a way to collect this information for all contractors, site visitors and even the families of employees in case the need arises.

Lesson Six: Your employees can destroy your brand

Stories about companies with spokespersons or employees that have behaved in ways that tarnish a brand were often in the news in 2015. Without minimizing in any way the personal tragedies behind each story, it’s important to keep in mind that Jared Fogle also did reputation damage to Subway, Bill Cosby caused problems for Jello and Disney, and engineers cheating on emissions tests did great harm to Volkswagen.

The obvious takeaway is that trusted representatives have the power to cause enormous problems for companies—but it’s important to remember that everyday employees can also make decisions or take actions that can get a company in hot water. The resulting fallout can define a company for years to come—assuming it survives the initial damage.


Establish and clearly share corporate communication and behavior standards for all employees. Be aware of potential negative information and rumors; whether and how crisis communications should occur, and establish strong corporate guidelines for social media communications and acceptable public behavior.

Lesson Seven: What was private is now public

With the dawn of digital communications and smart phones, people everywhere are empowered as photo journalists. Be aware at all times that whatever is happening in your company is being widely shared in story and picture. Your every action and response may become part of the public conversation at any moment.

Remember: It takes years to build a business—but only 140 characters to destroy one.


It can be hard enough to keep communication clear and on-brand at the best of times, but during a crisis you’ll likely be overwhelmed with inquiries. Be prepared to call on external resources to get you through.

Lesson Eight: Cyber-crime impacts even the unaware

A cyber-breach is a business problem, not just an IT challenge. Tens of millions of Americans had personal information stolen by criminals in 2015.

According to the FBI, virtually all businesses have been breached in some manner, whether by an automated piece of software, a random actor, a hacker group, or even a hostile government. Always remember it’s a matter of when, not if, your organization suffers some type of cyber attack.


Your organization must have a plan to mitigate a cyber-attack, as well as a plan to ensure proper communication and escalation should one happen.