In the first post of this crisis communication four-part series, we discussed the evolution of crisis and how audience demands and the growing explosion of communication outlets is driving risk for companies. So, just what is the risk or vulnerability for your company? Where could a crisis develop? This second part of the series will help you with the first step — recognizing where your company is exposed — to successfully plan for and navigate through crisis.

The easy low-hanging-fruit variety of crisis includes fires, bad weather, workplace violence and employee wrongdoing at the workplace.

But a company should dig deeper and examine all aspects of operations. From the products sold to the very buildings and locations of the company. How about the people you employ? Bad things happen to good companies and good people! If an incident occurs in a company car emblazoned with the firm’s mark, you may be vulnerable.

What if an employee is caught on camera doing something inappropriate or illegal while sporting the company logo on their clothing? You may be OK; you may not. You should be prepared to deal with this type of situation in 2014.

Then there’s social media and what our employees do online. An entire series of blogs could be dedicated to what employees do on social media sites. Even a private conversation can go viral these days — thanks NBA and Donald Sterling. Crisis!

A company or organization should look deep at where potential problems could erupt. Let’s begin with the product.

1. Do you make a product?
2. How do users use your product?
3. Could they be hurt with the product?
4. Could they hurt others with the product?
5. Could the product be recalled?
6. Could the product be misused?

So you don’t make a product — your own anyway — you are simply the manufacturer or you provide a service. Ask yourself:

1. If my service fails what can happen?
2. Does a failure of service mean the possibility of impacting people?
3. Can a member of our organization or someone tied to the organization jeopardize revenue or customer base due to actions?

You should also examine daily activity at the workplace and then beyond the doors of your building.

1. Are my employees at risk while at work or while engaging in work-related activity?

a. Identify the risk areas

i. Area of town
ii. Commute
iii. Remote nature of facility
iv. Busy street crossing
v. Air travel
vi. ?

You should also have an employee focus that includes personal situations.

1. What risks make our employees vulnerable in their personal lives?

a. Identify the risk areas

i. Arrested for drugs/alcohol
ii. Arrested for violence/abuse/child pornography
iii. Arrested for embezzlement/fraud
iv. Moral, racist or ethical accusations
v. Disgruntled employees or former employees
vi. Etc. …

Social media policies should be in place for employees. They should be very clear about workplace chatter or using company logos or company time. You will rely on those policies if and when the time comes to deal with a social media crisis.

This blog post is high level and only touches the surface of how companies should look at the business and the moving parts around the company. In this day and age, even a conversation between a girlfriend and boyfriend can send a crisis plan into action. Plan today.

About Two Rivers Marketing

Two Rivers Marketing is a full-service business-to-business (B2B) marketing communications agency. Email us with your thoughts or questions at blog@2rm.com.