10 must-haves of your PR crisis manager

These are essential qualities and skills needed by a crisis communications capable public affairs staffer:

  1. Ability to communicate: he/she must have the skills and talent to write and speak well under pressure to represent the organization and to guide statements made by others on behalf of the organization during a crisis;
  2. Understanding of the ‘bottom line’: he/she must understand business so as to determine the real potential for loss in each aspect of a crisis;
  3. Ability to learn: he/she must constantly learn about such things as the law as it deals with pollution, labour issues, libel and slander, and many other areas. He/she must learn about crucial subjects such as insurance, balance sheets, sociology, demographics and emergency measures;
  4. Attention to detail: he/she must be familiar, at least in general, with every system and process within the organization so as to know how to explain the organization’s workings simply but adequately in communications vehicles;
  5. Imagination: he/she must be able to imagine what could go wrong in the corporation, government agency or other organization, to assess the full ramifications of a crisis and to create plans to head off, ameliorate and to handle crises of all kinds;
  6. Balance: he/she must be able to see the positives as well as negatives in a crisis situation so as to avoid seeing and giving only one side of the story;
  7. Quick wits; he/she must be quick to be proactive about heading off crises and to react to any crisis that erupts. There is a great need to beat opponents to the punch, literally, in a crisis and to take advantage of anything that might resolve or soften a crisis as it happens or even before it gets caught up in the fan blades;
  8. Courage: he/she must be brave enough to tell the truth to senior people in the organization and to answer their questions and their concerns without fear of consequences;
  9. Fortitude: he/she must be and remain strong through any crisis and in the face of criticism both internally and externally;
  10. Thoroughness: he/she must be thorough in actions taken during the crisis – from assuring support to all victims of the crisis to meeting all needs of visiting journalists.  He/she must close all the doors after the crisis, putting on record how the organization resolved the crisis and how it is moving into the future.