Three-Act Crises

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    Learning crisis patterns can help you prepare for the future

    Crisis communications is marked by increased stakeholder expectations of accountability mixed with a whole lot of uncertainty. We see three distinct phases in every crisis; the breaking phase, the maintenance phase and the resolution phase. The challenges of the breaking phase are to focus on speed while maintaining information accuracy, as well as demonstrating organizational accountability in controlling the hazards. In the maintenance phase the organization must contextualize risks, acknowledge and respond to feedback, and dispel rumours in a timely manner. The resolution phase requires an organization to honestly examine mishaps and commit openly to changes in policy or procedures.

    This quote, from a Corpen Group blog post by Greg Vanier, helps to explain the distinct phases that every crisis goes through. Breaking it down to this very basic explanation is helpful because it allows one to see that, while the virtual maze of communication that makes up each stage can be confusing to an outsider, the actual steps involved are relatively simple.

    This predictable pattern is what allows you to prepare for the unpredictable as well. The fact that you know, for example, that you will need to rapidly disperse information at the beginning of any crisis, means that, regardless of what the crisis may be, you should be prepared and have communications channels in place with employees trained to man them.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]