Who to Have at the Table in a Crisis

When building a new facility or planning an advertising campaign, deciding who needs to be around the table is easy. But in the heat of a crisis, adrenaline and panic can cloud judgment. Is everyone OK? Who needs to be involved? When do people need to be informed? What do we tell them?

Planning is a vital tool, including and especially identifying those to have around the table when a crisis hits.

  1. Chief Executive Officer/President – During crises, the buck stops with the organization’s top leader(s). First, they must call law enforcement if anyone is in harm’s way.  Next, they need to call their team together. They must set a tone that addresses the crisis is not about blame; it’s about managing the problem at hand. Correcting processes and preventing future mistakes happens later.
  2. Chief Legal Officer/General Counsel – Were any laws broken? To which laws will the company have to adhere? What are the legal implications of potential actions and communications? You want your lawyer in the room to answer these questions as you communicate.
  3. Chief Communications Officer – This person is your expert when it comes to communicating to internal and external audiences, staying faithful to the brand’s values while addressing the issue. Communications and Legal strike a balance in what to say and when. The CCO should ‘hold the pen’ when it comes to making a final decision on what to say.
  4. Chief Human Resources Officer – How does the crisis affect personnel? What compliance issues might occur? How can managers and leaders help deliver information and control misinformation? Your people must be able to trust their leadership, especially in a time of crisis. Anything that affects people is the HR officer’s domain.
  5. Chief Operating Officer – What impact will the crisis have on the day-to-day business? How can you insulate the rest of the business from the crisis so you can still serve clients and customers? What partners might be affected? Keeping the business going is their charge.
  6. External Crisis Support Counsel – Outside communications counsel can be vital. Professionals trained to remain objective and provide expert counsel help ensure you’re leaving no base uncovered for internal and external audiences.
  7. Situational Chair – You guessed it: This chair is filled based on the issue. For a data breach, it may be the CISO. For a financial issue, it may be the CFO. For a large transportation accident, it may be head of fleet management. Fill this seat as needed, but always go with the expert, regardless of title.
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