Cloudy, with a Chance of Crisis

As oil company executives were called to testify in front of congress, newscasters were abuzz with the laughable errors in each company’s nearly identical crisis plans. While the Gulf of Mexico is facing an unprecedented environmental disaster, at least we know the walruses would have been safe…had they been there.

But while such errors seem laughable and we may smirk, perhaps it’s really nervous laughter we’re hearing. How many of us watch BP, Toyota and others in the eye of a PR storm – whether or not their own doing – and somewhat breathe a sigh of relief? Well except for those tornado chasing crisis lovers out there (luckily, some of which we have right here at JS).

But even if your company doesn’t experience a crisis on the scale of BP, or any crisis at all, will your competitors? It wasn’t just BP’s executive sitting up there facing the tough questions. The industry as a whole is awash in the ensuing slick of negative attention.

So, where’s your crisis plan? If you have one, is it full of walruses?

As communications counselors we encourage our clients to draft crisis communications plans, but all too often the PR plan turns to the instant gratification of that next media hit or social networking site of the moment. Or if a crisis plan is drafted, it sits for years with contacts and tactics becoming outdated.

Instead of snickering at the oil companies’ faux pas, let’s remember the quiet that always precedes the storm and use that time to plan accordingly. The forecast might be clear right now, but we should keep an umbrella handy.