Fineman Public Relations Senior Vice President Travis Taylor believes – as do most, possibly all, of his colleagues in crisis communications – that the first 48 hours after a crisis breaks are crucial. He thinks that the first 48 minutes, during which the crisis is reported, emergency personnel may arrive, and phone calls start coming in are very important.
How will you prepare for those “First 48”?
When he spoke before members of the San Francisco Public Relations Round Table, Travis told us that what happens during those “First 48” affect for a very long time how your organization is viewed and how it recovers – or doesn’t.
To make those 48 – minutes and hours – count and go well, a plan will help in ways you can only imagine at this point.
Travis said: Take time now to prepare a communications action plan and message matrix for each audience; review social media and traditional media policies; gather facts to prepare for potential media questions; and adhere to any communication guidelines, flow charts, logs and/or rosters previously prepared for any crisis.

The institution’s media spokesperson, who should have been identified in the planning process (who will speak for you? You should not try to do it all), should handle the relationship with local media. As the president or CEO or the owner, you will have more, much more, to handle. The media may want to speak with you, and you may feel flattered to be asked or, as Travis said, you may also feel — and be — shamelessly pursued for a comment. Set aside that fear or imagined invitation. Take care of the most likely much larger issues in front of you and work with your communications officer who will deal with the media.

Get ready to do a PANTCHEK
Travis used a clever and memorable acronym that every owner, manager and PR director should know in the development of a crisis plan: PANTCHEK. This easy-to-remember word weaves the practical steps to take when crisis hits with the key communications approaches that are essential:
• Public welfare is the first priority.
• All bad news out at once.
• No blame, no speculation and no repetition of the charges.
• Tell your side of the story first and with facts, or take responsibility if you are in the wrong.
• Care and concern for affected parties.
• High-level spokesperson must be accessible and responsive.
• Ensure the problem will not recur, and describe measures taken to ensure this.
• Keep separate plan for moving ahead.

Call a colleague – NOW
Reaching out to a colleague can make the task easier. Ask them to work with you on a crisis plan. Often, it does take another person and someone you trust to nudge you to write the plan, test it, update it, and run the drill. That’s OK. No one likes to think about bad days, loss, damage and disaster. But a business has a better chance to endure, recover and succeed with good preparation. A crisis plan helps you succeed.

But first, call a communications/PR professional
However, today is the very best time and day to take the first most important step: consult with a communications/public relations professional. They can help you make sure all of the bases are covered — from communications to emergency issues to the concrete decisions about who has keys, passwords and copies of documents — and help you make sure your plan is strong and reliable.

Travis left us with this excellent advice:
• Prepare a crisis response plan before a crisis occurs, so you have effective guidelines and protocols to follow whenever a crisis hits.
• Develop relationships with media and emergency response personnel. They will be critical when dealing with a crisis.
• Timely responses are critical, but do not panic or rush.
• Facts are not always black and white, and must be communicated, or not, with great care and only when they are definitively confirmed.
• Even when providing definitively confirmed information, be careful not to provide confidential or other private information or information that would interfere with an ongoing investigation.
• Know when the crisis is over.
• Follow-up each crisis by reflecting on and refining the crisis response plan