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Becoming a Crisis Communications Champion

If you’re an American football fan, it’s an exciting time of the year. The college playoff field is shaping up, ultimately leading to the championship game in January. Professional football teams in the National Football League are beginning to eye the ultimate prize—a Super Bowl win. It’s the time of year where excellence is on clear display.

Whatever your sport or passion, there are likely teams you admire because of their outstanding achievements or their ability to overcome adverse situations. Perhaps, during this season, we can take some inspiration from these “heroes” and apply them to our work in business resiliency and crisis communication. Consider these thoughts on what it takes to be a champion crisis communicator.

Winning Starts at the Top

If you observe a consistently high-performing team, you’ll likely see it being led by a dynamic, knowledgeable and wise head coach. The head coach understands the nuances of the game. She surrounds herself with dedicated assistant coaches. She recruits players with talent and expects results. She knows how to inspire others to achieve their potential. And she knows how to let the hammer down when necessary.

As a head coach for a crisis communication program, you also need strong leadership skills. It’s your job to set the tone. Even if you’re not the most senior person in the room, you must convince others of the resources needed for success and inspire others throughout the company to support the required efforts. Winning crisis communications starts with strong, passionate leadership.

Have a Game Plan

Championship teams go into each game with a carefully crafted plan they believe will allow them to win. They understand the challenges they might face, and they have designed strategies to leverage strengths and mitigate weaknesses.

As a champion communicator and resiliency professional, you must do the same thing. It’s your role to assess various potential risks and identify their associated impacts on the business. You must also build a foundation of communication to support the plan you craft.  Scenarios must be anticipated and outreach efforts predefined so they can be implemented without delay or hesitation.

You must ensure your approach isn’t one dimensional. From a communications standpoint, you must consider multiple channels for relaying information in case any single channel is unavailable or ineffective. A strong game plan takes time to develop, but will be worth its weight in gold should your organization face a business disrupting event.

Practice the Game Plan

You’d never expect a championship-caliber team to simply just “show up and play.” High achievement revolves around consistent and repetitious game plan practice.

Championship crisis communications requires preparation and practice as well. Conducting exercises and tests of response procedures, notification systems, decision-making methods, etc. will help prepare your team for the stresses of a real-life situation.

Be Prepared to Ditch the Game Plan

Some of the best known sports teams in the world achieved their “champion” status, not by arriving at the game with the best plan, but instead by adjusting effectively to unexpected conditions.

Having flexibility in decision making and communication can mean the difference between success and failure. Further, ensuring sufficient feedback capabilities are built in to your processes and technologies will provide for better situational awareness and make unanticipated next steps more clear.

Support what went Right, Correct what went Wrong

Finally, all great teams review their performance after practices and games to determine what went right and address things that need improving.

Make sure your team is conducting after action reviews following any exercises or actual events. Then build on the positives and correct the negatives.

Champions are more likely to be built than “born.” The same is true of champions in crisis communications. With effective leadership, planning, practice, course correction and flexibility, you and your team can be seen as true heroes when faced with business disrupting adversity.