PR Training

Breakout Workshop: How Bulletproof Is Your Crisis Plan?

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Most public relations professionals have at least a rudimentary knowledge of crisis plans and communications but because most don’t often have to use them (knock on wood) few of us possess the experience to evaluate them. Jean Gonsoulin, senior vice-president for GolinHarris addressed that void with, “How Bullet-Proof Is Your Crisis Plan?” Evaluating and re-tooling your plan for successful management in a crisis.”

Key takeaways included:

  • The worst part of a crisis is being unprepared.
  • Our role is to convince management to plan for the unthinkable. 
  • Corporate crises can take many forms – catastrophic, employee violence, product recalls, tainted products, executive misconduct, stock crashes, etc.
  • We should look at crises possibilities from many different angles and areas.
  • Consequences of poor crisis planning include escalation of the crisis, financial devastation, harmed reputation, chaos in the workplace and ultimate failure of your business or company.
  • Plan an assessment of each crises to understand the level of gravity and what the best possible outcomes are.
  • Most common misstep in crisis communications planning is overlooking the different target audiences. “All we care about are shareholders.” What about your customers, consumers in general, employees, board members, partners, industry watchdogs, government officials, etc.?
  • Must determine the audiences, information they need, what the message is, what channel will be used to deliver it, what method will be used to deliver it, who the message carrier is and what the timing for that audience communications is. Lay them out on a grid and ensure your core message translates across to each audience.
  • Most people in audience indicated not everyone on their communications team is aware of or understands their crisis plans.
  • Bullet-Proof  your plan by gaining support from leadership, having a trained team in place that understands the plan, collaborate with the business sectors so they understand your needs and expectations, ensuring you have excellent technology to activate the communications and practice frequently.
  • The last bullet-proofing component is to debrief and evaluate after everything – drills and crises.

By Jason Falls, director, social media, at Doe-Anderson, a brand-building agency in Louisville, Ky., and the author of, a leading social media, public relations, marketing and communications blog and one of Advertising Age’s Power 150 marketing blogs. Falls is a 16-year public relations veteran and the director of Social Media for Doe-Anderson. In his role he advises clients like Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek and Jim Beam bourbons on the use of social media. He is a frequent speaker on social media strategies and tools, public relations in the new media era and communications strategies, and is the co-founder of the Social Media Club Louisville.

For coverage on the PRSA 2008 International Conference: The Point of Connection, visit

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Jason Falls

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