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Talk stat when emergency hits

Marlene Olsen

Will the world still be turning tomorrow without people like me cranking out press releases and pitches to editors? Absolutely! But there are critical times when the skills of your communications staff will demonstrate their importance.

If you are a business owner or manager, be prepared for those moments.

I always find myself in reflective mood after a particularly hard time.

The most recent made me even more thankful for the skills that our staff has.

With much frustration, I watched last week as an employee and her family went through the horror of a missing family member.

We waited with much hope that the law enforcement agencies would set out to find her.

And, with no action after the most critical time to find someone in trouble 48 hours our staff put their skills into gear.

Our office was busy: putting out missing person flyers to all press on the West Coast, working with reporters one-onone, orchestrating a press conference for the family and finally managing the press on site.

The importance of communication skills and the power of the media to get the word out were never clearer to me.

It is truly awesome that each and every one of us in Reno and in this country has such access to such a powerful communication network.

I now understand when I see families in the spotlight who are accessing the media to get the word out on during a crisis.

Sometimes you just have to take action, because waiting around is too painful.

Does this have anything to do with business? Your business or staff members could be faced with a crisis.

It is hard to stand on the sidelines and wait for government to help you, and almost impossible if you have leadership traits.

If your company does not have a disaster and recovery plan or a crisis communications plan, now is the time to get started on one.

* Have a team in place.

Appoint a crisis communications team, develop a crisis communications plan and then communicate it to all appropriate parties.

If you don’t have the staff needed, associate with a company that could provide these services.

This plan needs to have systems developed to disseminate information quickly and efficiently, internally and externally, before and after a crisis strikes.

* How would you communicate with employees, customers, vendors and investors if you were forced out of your facilities? Do you have those lists secured and the equipment to communicate in an emergency? How about a list of where all of your most important documents and backups are?

* Take some media training.

Simple media training for the CEO and senior staff is a good precautionary step.

During a time of crisis, people want to hear from someone at the top, preferably a person who has experience in getting his or her message across.

* List the most dreaded things that can happen in your business: fire, death of a staff member, larceny, robbery, etc.

And, then think through what you need to have in place to handle those situations.

* Have a practice exercise, a dedicated staff meeting, or even a serious discussion with your management staff.

Walk through the plan on paper and see where to weak spots are.

* Be proactive.

Proactive media and community relations programs should be part of any comprehensive crisis plan.

This includes maintaining an ongoing public and community relations program and developing positive relationships with local media representatives and community leaders.

These valuable relationships will help when a crisis strikes.

* Keep the plan updated as is reasonable for your business.

The idea is to act fast, and old contact information will not help you in an emergency.

If you run a small business, this is probably the last thing on your mind.

Even a one page, bullet-pointed plan with staff responsibilities that is distributed will be more than the majority of small businesses have.

It might help you through some tough times, maybe even save your business, or help someone in an emergency.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This applies to all facets of business, and it definitely applies in a crisis.

Marlene Olsen is the president of Olsen & Associates Public Relations, Inc.

of Reno.

Serving the community for 23 years, Olsen & Associates is dedicated to building and optimizing public perceptions with integrity for its clients.

Contact: marlene@o-apr.com.Website: http://www.o-apr.com.


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