One of the key elements of a crisis response plan is identifying the individuals on the crisis response team and defining their roles. This should happen as part of the planning process, rather than at the onset of the crisis, which can be a chaotic time.
The crisis response team is responsible for overseeing the management of the crisis situation, and responding to the media, board members, shareholders, the public, patrons, and employees.
Here is a list of the typical roles and responsibilities of a crisis response team. Whether every role is engaged depends on the scope of the crisis, but it’s always best that each individual knows their role and responsibilities well before an emergency occurs.
The Team Leader is responsible for the management of all aspects of response operations. This should be an individual who is already a leader in some capacity within the organization and can remain calm and collected during a high-pressure event. The Team Leader’s role is to:
- Assess the situation and determine the nature of the incident, the threat posed by the incident, and the appropriate level of crisis response.
- Ensure that personnel safety is the highest priority throughout the conduct of response operations.
- Determine response priorities and have a clear understanding of objectives for the situation.
- Approve and authorize the implementation of an incident action plan.
- Manage overall response operations and ensure that they are carried out in a manner that is consistent with company policy, the appropriate government directives, and the needs and concerns of impacted areas.
- Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of response operations and the performance of the crisis communications team and adjust as necessary.
- Make final calls on all issues relating to a crisis communications situation.
- Determine when it is appropriate to contact board members, shareholders, government officials, or other invested parties during a crisis communications situation.
- Approve requests for outside resources.
A Spokesperson in a crisis event serves as the face of the company and should be well-practiced in conducting media interviews and public speaking. Identifying more than one spokesperson allows an organization to put forth the most appropriate person for the situation and ensures that someone will be available, even on short notice.
It’s also important that the spokesperson is well respected by the audience to whom they are speaking. The Spokesperson’s role is to:
- Work with the communications officer to develop materials for internal and external audiences.
- Be practiced in answering difficult or complicated questions.
- Establish lines of communication with the press, concerned citizens’ groups, and public organizations.
- Navigate an aggressive interviewer and steer answers back to appropriate talking points.
- Determine when there is a need for an additional spokesperson, e.g., technical topic, etc.
- Practice message points before interaction with internal and external audiences.
The team’s Communications Officer is primarily responsible for the formation and release of information about an incident to internal and external audiences.
This person should be well versed in the organization’s communication structure and style and is the owner of messaging during the crisis situation. The Communication Officer’s role is to:
- Serve as the principal advisor to the crisis communications team on all matters relating to internal and external messaging.
- Work with the team leader and legal expert to establish incident-specific communications to identified target audiences.
- Prepare and disseminate internal communications, such as voicemails or emails, addressing crisis details and guidelines for behavior.
- Prepare communications materials, such as public statements, press releases, and fact sheets.
- Arrange news conferences, media updates, interviews, press tours, etc., as appropriate for reporters, community group leaders, and others.
- Establish a media hotline in severe situations.
The Team Coordinator acts as the arms and legs of the crisis communications team. They are responsible for monitoring, fact-checking, and keeping communications materials up to date to ensure a seamless response in the event of a crisis. The Team Coordinator’s role is to:
- Monitor media and social media coverage of the incident and provide follow-up information when necessary.
- Flag any coverage of the incident with the Communications Officer.
- Track and keep final copies of all communication materials and update material as needed.
- Update the organization’s website, if appropriate.
- Maintain a record of proceedings from all press briefings or other press contact.
Human Resources Expert
The Human Resources Expert provides support to employees and their family members and any local agencies (such as fire departments, police departments, or the Red Cross) that may be involved in the crisis situation. The role of the HR Expert is to:
- Assist in communication with affected employees and general employee population as required for the situation.
- Provide timely and accurate information on employees to the entire crisis communications team.
- Provide timely support to employees and family members regarding benefits and counseling services.
The Legal Expert is responsible for providing legal advice on all aspects of response operations. The role of the Legal Expert is to:
- Review policies, practices, and procedures related to response operations.
- Identify and address legal issues that may arise from operations.
- Advise the crisis communications team on all legal matters related to the response.
- Advise the crisis communications team on the type of documentation to compile and preserve to support the company in incident-related litigation and/or claims.
- Review communication materials, including press releases and media statements, prior to their release.
- Coordinate compliance with all regulatory reporting requirements.
- Supervise the activities of outside legal counsel, if utilized.
Dealing with a crisis is never easy. But being prepared, including identifying and preparing your crisis response team ahead of time, will help to mitigate long-term damage to the organization. Effective and efficient crisis response will always lead to better outcomes.
Choosing the right crisis response team for your company can be overwhelming. Feel free to contact us, and we can help you get started identifying the best people to handle your crisis communications.
Thank you for reading our Insight on who should be on your crisis response team. For more tips on crisis communications and response planning read, “Who Your Spokesperson Should Be In a Crisis Situation,” and, “Communications Checklist During a National Crisis.”
Posted In Crisis Communications