Think you’ve got a great crisis plan? Our research shows you may want to check again

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When I launched Provident Communications almost three years ago, I did so with the goal of helping companies communicate more effectively by providing on-demand access to expert-level advice and counsel.

Before joining the corporate world, I spent a decade as a daily business reporter at The Canadian Press, Reuters and the Financial Post. I was often surprised by how woefully ill-prepared many of the companies I covered seemed to be every time a crisis was upon them. Equally astounding was how poorly many spokespeople performed while under the glare of the media spotlight, with their brands, reputations and customer trust all at stake.

How could this be? After all, when the stakes are the highest, the response plan must be the tightest and the spokesperson the strongest. Right?

The study we’ve released, Crisis and Consequences, shows that most Canadian business decision-makers know it’s not a matter of if but when a crisis will hit. It’s caught the attention of Strategy Magazine, which has published an in-depth piece on Crisis and Consequences and my thoughts on the study’s key findings.

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Unfortunately, the study highlights that there is still a rather serious and potentially painful gap between awareness and action, with many Canadian companies still struggling to prepare for crisis.

The survey, conducted in partnership with Angus Reid Global, reveals that the majority of companies don’t have a reputation recovery plan after a crisis hits. They don’t use the media effectively to tell their stories.

Their crisis communications teams lack diversity when it comes to race, culture and gender identity, meaning the responses to an ongoing crisis could make matters worse. They under-estimate online social justice movements even as they recognize the shark-infested waters of social media. Many see their spokespeople as ineffective and not adequately trained to deal with the media.

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It’s worth another reminder: No matter what industry they operate in, large companies sooner or later find themselves facing angry customers, hackers and fraudsters, or a natural disaster that strikes out of nowhere and cripples operations, to name but a few.

That’s where we come in.

Getting external advice from level-headed crisis and reputation management experts is a smart move. Proactive planning can drastically reduce your response times when a crisis hits and will help protect your company’s reputation -- and there's no better time to plan for difficult times than when it’s quiet, and you have time to think, strategize and develop a response and recovery plan for when the skies inevitably darken.

And don’t neglect the need for media training for your leaders and spokespeople in those quiet times. A common gap in many companies’ PR strategies is that their key spokespeople haven’t been trained on how to give media interviews.

Asking someone untrained to be your primary voice in the midst of a potentially devastating scandal is like asking an Uber driver to take the wheel in a Formula One race: don’t do it, or bad things can happen. We’ve trained leaders poised to plunge into crisis, and we’ve prepared spokespeople to handle the trickiest and most difficult questions the media can ask. Each time, clients tell us the value of such training cannot be overstated.

As Crisis and Consequences has revealed, many companies are still grappling with crisis readiness and how to share news of the good that they do by using intelligent thought leadership campaigns and expert media outreach. Don’t let it happen to your company. Arm yourself with knowledge, media skills and a trusted and experienced strategic communications partner -- and peace of mind that you’ll be well-positioned to deal with any crisis coming your way, tomorrow, two weeks or two years from now.