When working on programs, fundraising or other chapter activities, it is important to prepare for the possibility of a crisis. Thinking through a potential crisis before one occurs can save time and energy if one occurs.

What is a crisis?  It is any situation that has the potential to generate publicity. The ensuing publicity, favorable or unfavorable, will reflect on the organization. Accidents, crimes, environmental hazards, investigations, employee issues, financial mismanagement and public health/safety violations are all examples of areas in which a crisis could erupt that could have adverse implications on the organization.   In addition, when dealing directly with the public, there are multiple risks involved that could give rise to allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct on behalf of the organization, that can result in a crisis requiring the triggering of the crisis management communication team response.

What to do before a crisis occurs?  The first step is to build the Crisis Management Team and designate the lineage of spokespersons. The designated spokesperson represents the organization and is the official disseminator of information. The hierarchy that will represent Assistance League Sierra Foothills and will be the official disseminators of information are the following:

  • President
  • President-Elect
  • Marketing Communications/Public Relations Chairman
  • Recording Secretary

The names, title and cell phone numbers will be listed and updated on the Crisis Management Checklist at the beginning of each fiscal year.

What should be remembered when a crisis occurs?

 Centralize Communications/Notify Crisis Management Team: as set forth above and working in conjunction with law enforcement, if applicable.

  1. Collect and Report Factually Accurate Data When collecting the data consider the following:
  • Do you have all the facts (to the best of your knowledge)?
  • What other information do you need to put the event into perspective?
  • Has the situation been confirmed?
  • Was your information source(s) credible?
  • Is information consistent from several sources?
  1. Develop the Message: Once the crisis level has been determined and factual information to be communicated has been confirmed, it is time to begin planning a response strategy for communicating critical information and for responding to potential questions for each audience. During this step, the Crisis Management Team should:
  • Develop a script for conveying key information points – working with law enforcement, if applicable.
    • Do not speculate but report the facts accurately while considering the limits of exposure to litigation. Choose wording carefully, considering implications. The public will be mollified by the fact that steps are being taken to correct a problem. If the media discovers the crisis and investigates, the headlines will be written to sell the story. The spokesperson or designated officers will issue further instructions after assessing the situation and determining what is to be said to the media.
    • Prior Incidents Be prepared to address the organization’s operation’s record for the relevant crisis situation, e.g., financial integrity, treatment of employees, etc.
    • Brief Statement: A one-page statement should be prepared keeping in mind the legal, financial, administrative, public relations, and community impact of the chapter’s position. All communication should be framed within the context of the prepared statement. If read at a news conference, the statement should take under two minutes. The statement should be rehearsed.
    • First to Report: When possible, be first to report your own bad news. This allows the chapter to remain in control of the story. Headlines will be more sensational and command more attention if the report is media generated. If the chapter issues a press release, the chapter frames the language, words, and facts.

In some cases, the media may be alerted to the situation before all of these facts can be determined. Even if you do not have all of the information yet, it is important to notify the Crisis Management Team of the alleged incident as well as provide the media with a statement indicating that you are aware of the situation and the situation is under investigation and that as soon as more information is available it will be provided.

  1. Message Approval and Release
  • Once messages are developed, all messages that will be distributed internally to employees and externally to the public, shareholders, the media, etc., must be approved by the following individuals:
    • Crisis Management Team Designated Spokesperson;
    • Legal Counsel/Advisor;
    • Law Enforcement, if applicable
    • Identify the best methods for delivery of key messages.
  1. Monitoring/Feedback
  • Review crisis and update messages as appropriate
  • Review crisis coverage
  • Review media outlets that have inquired about the situation.
    • Identify story trends
    • What is the main focus for the media?
    • Is the focus changing?
    • Are there patterns that indicate messages the organization should be focusing on or responding to?
    • Identify public and key stakeholder issues – What are the major issues being addressed through the media? What questions or concerns are being posed?

After the crisis, the team should meet and analyze the chapter’s response. Examine stories, notes, interviews, and tapes and engage in a continuous cycle of improvement analysis.

Version 1    Prepared:  July 2020      Approved:  October 2020

Crisis Management Checklist