Issue 4

Business Continuity Planning - Crisis Communications

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In this issue, we discuss how to mitigate risk to your business or financial institution by having a Crisis Communications plan in place before disaster strikes. 


In a crisis situation, a firm, well-considered communications plan is critical.  Consider these two scenarios:
 
In scenario one, overnight, you have a pipe burst in one of your branches or offices.  You are notified by the property manager of the problem at 4am.  It has ruined most of your computer and office equipment, and shorted out your entire security system - alarms, cameras - everything.  Because of the remoteness of the location, you will not be able to execute your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and have a fully functional facility for the day.
 
In scenario two, you have a partner or director that has been arrested for a breach of trust crime that is not connected with the company.  His face, name and association with your business have been included in all local television coverage of the arrest.  The newspaper articles covering the incident dig much deeper, detailing the depth and breadth of his involvement with your company, including his membership on your audit and community outreach committees.  He is very visible in the community and strongly linked with your brand.
 
Clearly, these two instances are incredibly different, but both require prompt notification to many different parties.  The speed, clarity and conviction with which you act - and inform - can go a long way in reassuring employees, customers and regulators.
 
In the first scenario, you need to communicate with your remote location employees and other departments.  Customers can be informed by a posting on your website, branch/store signage or via an emergency email notification.  Large customers may require a personal phone call with information on how you will accommodate their needs.  If you're a regulated industry such as banking or health care, regulators and your Board will need notification as well.
 
The second scenario is clearly more delicate.  The partner or director has been arrested, but guilt has not been established.  Consider how your early communications must be worded in the event he is convicted in the future.  Press releases, media interviews and employee communications must all be consistent. 

Restating your external communications policy to employees is crucial - who is authorized to speak with the press, and who is not?
 
As a final thought, consider some sort of "reassuring" sentence or phrase in every outgoing communication.  Such as:

"XYZ Savings Bank is a $300 million FDIC insured financial institution.  Headquartered for 30 years in Your Town, XYZ Savings Bank has offices Here, There and Everywhere."

or

"Bob's Business Services has been a valued member of the community for the past 10 years.  We're proud supporters of X charity, Y community service and Z educational program."
 
For Consideration:  Does your BCP categorize and rate various emergencies?  Does it include pre-written internal, regulator and public communications scripts designed to be used for various emergencies?  Does your communications plan specify who must be informed, when they are to be informed, and who will produce the notification?  Has your Enterprise Risk Management process considered and assessed the risk associated with a partner, director or senior executive receiving unflattering public exposure?

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