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Emergency Preparedness, Part 4:

In November 2019, LYRASIS presented a webinar* on Crisis Communication and Reputation Management. California Community Theatre presents excerpts and takeaways in this feature article, the third in a series dedicated to emergency, safety and risk preparation.

LYRASIS creates and sustains technologies, services and programs that are uniquely designed to help libraries, archives, museums and research organizations access and share their vital collections, data and knowledge.


In/For Your Organization, What is a Crisis? Does your organization have a matrix or identification procedure for each type of crisis? It can be a variety of incidents (intentional or not), and has the potential to impact your credible, integrity and reputation of your organization (in addition to the tangible damage).

As an organization, you should have specific criteria of crisis, rather than treat everything as a crisis. Treating everything as a crisis creates waste, conflict, confusion and mistrust.


REMEMBER: Crisis Communication means before, during and after a crisis.


What Are Identifications/Consequences of a Crisis?

Element of Surprise

Quick Pace of Event

Insufficient Information

Intense Scrutiny


REMEMBER: It's not a matter of IF but WHEN a crisis will occur


Have a Way to Differentiate Between Types of Crisis

Example: Use the Banana Index:

Yellow (ready now); Green (emerging); Brown (hanging around)


REMEMBER: Internal crisis are more common than external. And, smoldering crisis are more common than sudden.


What is the Best Action You Can Take for Crisis Communication? Be ready BEFORE a crisis. Most organizations cannot or do not do this. How can you do this?

1. Pre-Crisis Planning

a. Strategic Communication. This means long-term, integrated approach to communication with your constituencies . With so much ability to communicate, you need to get it strategic and streamlined.

  • What are you specific defined core values? What is your organization about? What does it stand for? These might be identical to another organization's, ie: community engagement. Core values should be deeply ingrained and never compromised. They should never change.


QUICK TIP: Aspirational values are different than core values - those that need to be in the future, but not currently. Accidental values are also not core values, but those that attain success without intent, ie: an organization that gets accolades or specific support for actions that were not anticipated when founded.

  • Leadership should be ambassador of your brand. Leadership should be completely committed to your brand, and commit to the core values as well as communication strategy of the organization.

  • Planned and practiced strategy used in good and bad times


REMEMBER: A lack of a plan will decrease confidence in your leadership about how well your organization can weather a crisis. So...PLAN!


2. Strategic Communication Plan

Communication doesn't just happen; it's well-planned. The standard formula for a Strategic Communication Plan includes:

a. Research

  • Secondary Research: Look at already-published materials to learn about your orgnaization, your target audience, your competition. You need to continue to do research on your organization, even if you feel you know it well or have been involved in it for a long time. You also should know and research the theatre sector overall/generally, and like-sized and like-driven other theatre orgnaizations. Also look and continually research communication best practices from all industries (not just theatres) or locations.

  • Condcut primary research

  • Create SWOT Analysis on your communications plan, specifically.

b. Objectives

  • What are your oganization's mission and core values?

  • What is your business goal? ie: Sell more tickets, increase audiences, etc. How can you tell that you've reached your objective? Find a way to measure your impacts.

  • Strategic communication goal. This is different than your business goal. This goal is focused on communication.


QUICK TIP: Watch your verbs. Communicators cannot raise ticket sales. That's a business goal; business goals rely on more than communication. Every part of your operations should be working toward your business goal. Don't get these confused.

  • Public/Target: Who are you trying to reach? Prioritize and research your targets. You might need internal and external segments, primary and secondary, or other ways to categorize.


QUICK TIP: There's no such thing as the "general" public.

  • Strategic Communication Objectives; OUTPUT vs. OUTCOME: Steps you need to take to get to your communication goal.

  • Each objective must have a measurable outcome (number or percentage); must have a primary target; must have a date for completion of the objective.


QUICK TIP: Objectives need to be realistic.

  • Objectives should be built around outcomes, not output. Focus objectives on impact of those tasks.

  • Key Messages: can be used as theme of plan, communicated externally, or centers the plan. You might need a messaging terms that define certain components. Make sure everyone speaks with one voice.

c. Programming: After research and planning objectives, you can begin working on the programming.

d. Evaluation


QUICK TIP: Get your team together and brainstorm the answer to the question 'What Could Go Wrong?' Make an index of what you should address immediately, and so on. But have a plan for all these scenarios, including a Crisis Communication Plan for each.


Update your Crisis Communication Plan every six months, to reflect changes in contact, risks, procedures, etc.

Logistics of Crisis Communication Plan:

  • Make sure you have a centralized place/source for information and voice of the plan to the public.

  • Create and ensure understanding of roles and responsibilities of your staff.

  • Have a plan how to work with your media and partners.Your leaders should have media training.

  • Update and maintain your website; most external constituents will check that first for your current information and messages.

  • Prepare your collateral before the crisis: have a fact sheet of information about your theatre so that basic information is readily available to accompany the crisis information when it's distributed.


REMEMBER: Preparation Protects Reputation


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