Event Summary: Chris Olsen's Presentation on Crisis Management

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On Tuesday, November 10, CPRS Vancouver hosted a speaker event featuring Chris Olsen, Peak Communicators’ senior consultant. Chris travelled from Kelowna to generously share his crisis management insights with the Vancouver communications community. With over 30 years experience including public relations, accounting and politics, Chris has a remarkable depth and breadth of knowledge.

The presentation took place at the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver and was organized by CPRS director Joanne Probyn with the help of volunteers Samantha Dutton-Jones, Vanessa Mora, and Matthew McKinnon. It was well-attended with over 40 registrants. Survey results indicated the majority of guests were very satisfied with the experience.

Chris began by revealing a common misperception that many organizations have about crises and the crisis communications plan. He believes that most businesses are reluctant to have a plan in place because there is no perceived value. Many people believe that a crisis would never happen to them–and if it did, they would be able to handle it. What most decision-makers fail to consider is how quickly issues escalate and how difficult it is for most people to make decisions effectively while under unusual, intense pressure. Chris believes a crisis communications plan is essential for any business.

An effective crisis management plan includes:

  • Simple, easy to follow steps that help minimize errors
  • 10 pages (or less) with appendices such as duty rosters, SOPs, and crisis scripts
  • Printed and electronic versions that help reduce response time
  • Document templates including news releases, media advisories, and messages

The major takeaway was to have a plan and to use it often which helps to keep the document up-to-date. Chris termed this a “living plan.”

In his presentation, he also highlighted the power of social media. “Social media can turn any issue into a major crisis within seconds and it is up to your organization to utilize this medium to interact with your public,” says Chris. An informative landing page prepared well in advance will also reduce valuable response time. 

Key crisis communications steps:

  1. Determine the facts
  2. Assess the crisis level
  3. Activate the crisis management team 
  4. Develop a crisis specific fact sheet
  5. Determine the most effective communications response
  6. Develop key messages from fact sheet information 
  7. Write a company statement and/or news release 
  8. Develop a Q&A 
  9. Contact key stakeholders including media
  10. Monitor media stories and social media in real-time

Follow these steps to ensure your business becomes the most important and reliable source of information in a crisis while limiting reputation damage and building a stronger brand.

Lastly, when appropriate, your company’s spokesperson should expresses genuine regret and concern over the impact of the crisis. An apology and a promise to cooperate with the authorities will deliver the best possible results for your organization and the public.

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