3 Lessons From the A-Team in Crisis Communication Planning
“I love it when a plan comes together,” says Hannibal. But his plans seem last minute, thrown-together responses to crises. Are they?
At first glance, they appear to be. Hannibal’s plans seem rushed, not planned or thought out. The plans, however, always feature a constant set of characters. They have defined roles and responsibilities. They can be relied upon to carry out their duties, which leads to the first point about crisis communication planning:
1. Identify communication crisis responders.
More to the point: know who they are, what function they serve, and how to get in touch with them when Instagram blows up at two o’clock in the morning. Your plan is only as strong as the people who contribute to it. Make sure you have your Hannibal, B.A. Baracus, Murdock, and Face in place.
Hannibal is the leader. He keeps things organized—especially when B.A. has just about had it with Murdock’s sock puppets.
B. A. is the brawn. He gets things done. He can be counted on to carry out the mission, the message, regardless of the social media fire’s size. And he’ll carry it out on whichever channel he needs to. If he needs to be on Instagram, he’s there. If it’s on Twitter or Facebook, he’s there, too.
Face is “face.” He’s the spokesperson. He knows how to talk with the media. He soothes ruffled feathers. He’s credible and, perhaps more importantly, perceived as trustworthy.
Murdock has a role to play, too. He’s the humor that defuses situations. He can poke humor at the brand without sacrificing the brand or its reputation. In fact, he’s likely to get the audience to laugh, too, which not only overcomes the crisis but also ensures a loyal and supportive customer base.
2. Know your vulnerabilities.
The A Team constantly gets themselves into scrapes; it’s the premise of the show. If they were to invest in a vulnerability audit, they might discover why that always seems to happen. They’d be able to avoid some bad spots.
A crisis communication vulnerability audit does the same thing. It identifies risks and helps you avoid them.
First, audit internal risks. Some you know are coming—downsizing or closing stores—and some you don’t. The rogue tweet, for instance, is unexpected. But that doesn’t mean you can’t identify the risk and have a plan for it.
Second, assess external risks. Think of these as societal issues. Where might your brand run aground? Identify the concerns, then develop response plans for them.
3. Rely on standard plots.
The plots found in episodes of the A Team aren’t exactly rocket science. They follow an established pattern. Someone’s in trouble; the A Team comes to the rescue; the team gets into a sticky situation; the team overcomes and saves the day.
While your own crises will vary, set the plot beforehand. Write scripted statements that can be used for a variety of incidents. Adapt them, just as the A Team does, to the situation. Maybe a dose of B.A. isn’t the best solution. Use a Face or Murdock tactic instead.
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