Boards of directors and corporate counsel: Critical incident planning can help manage your liability

We have just completed Phase 1 of a three-phase comprehensive crisis management plan for a major Florida client. Although we still must provide them with the tabletop, the live-fire, agency-wide crisis response exercise, and crisis communications media training, their executives tell me they are already resting more easily with the knowledge that their critical incident response plan is in place.

This milestone made me wonder, once again, why it is that companies without crisis or critical incident response plans risk losing millions of dollars – and all the pain that goes with that – by not investing a relatively small amount now to avoid potentially catastrophic payouts later.

For corporate counsel reading this: Are you aware that just having a professionally-developed current crisis or critical incident response plan may be a component of your defense against a lawsuit for damages sought by those affected by the crisis?

For corporate directors reading this: Are you aware directors can be held accountable under duty of care and fiduciary responsibility clauses of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for damages to revenues, shareholder value and reputation caused by a crisis, not to mention the potential for shareholder lawsuits, personal embarrassment and potentially irreparable harm to your own reputation. (For these reasons and more, we were brought in several years ago by the board of a large international company to provide crisis incident management and crisis media interview workshops for their manufacturing executives and plant management teams).

For more detail, please see this very thorough analysis from Harvard Law School.

The crisis management plan development process as applied by Clearview Communications & Public Relations/The Message Masters, entails no heavy lifting or major time investment by a client, and it shouldn’t. You’ve got a business to run.

After more than 20 years in this profession, we have the template in place (more than  60 pages). The real work on our side is in customizing the basic plan to accommodate your org chart and geographic locations, identifying members of your crisis management team and the CMT’s support group (the crisis action teams), developing the notification and activation guidelines, and determining the specific actions each member of the CMT will take when a crisis is identified. 

For CEOs reading this: If you start today, depending on availability of you and your staff, we can develop Phase 1 and have a customized, defensible crisis management plan developed for you within 60 days. Phases 2 and 3, which include rehearsals, corporate exercises and crisis media training, can come after that. Clearview can provide crisis communications services in the interim.

Why lose another night’s sleep enduring nightmares about the TV satellite trucks parked outside and cameras set up in your parking lot or on your lawn? Why continue to expose you, your officers and directors to the liabilities that always follow a crisis? Take action now. Call me confidentially at 404-822-3309 or e-mail me at [email protected].

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Andrew Bowen, APR

Andrew Bowen (Accredited in Public Relations) is one of the most seasoned, experienced and trusted PR professionals in the nation. Bowen has four decades of experience in the communications industry as a newspaper reporter and editor, political press secretary, government public information officer, advertising/public relations agency executive, author, crisis communications counselor, executive media interview coach, and firm owner.

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