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Passing the ACID Test (2)

In a blog published on April 25th we started looking at our crisis management benchmark The ACID Test.

We believe there are four vital capabilities required in a successful crisis response: Activation, Communication, Information Management and Decision Making.

This time we look in more detail at the first two capabilities: Activation and Communication.


If you don’t have a team you can’t fight a crisis.  A strong activation and escalation process must be in place to ensure the right people are reached quickly.  This requires that those who detect an incident know who to inform and that there is a simple, effective procedure for alerting them.

Today a crisis team may not all be sat together in a room, but will often convene virtually via video and telephone conference calls.

Once the crisis team is convened the chair needs to ask the following questions:

  • Are the right people engaged, who are we missing?
  • Are there resource constraints that prevent us from implementing the plan?
  • Is the response sustainable should the crisis last longer than expected?


During a crisis, clear, consistent and timely messages must be delivered to all stakeholders.

A common problem faced by comms teams is the sign off process. This can become a real bottleneck in a crisis. A crisis comms plan must clearly document:

  • Who is responsible for sign-off?
  • What happens if they are not available?

There may be enormous pressure to talk to customers and the media, but don’t forget staff. It has been said that panic among staff doesn’t arise from bad news but rather from conflicting messages from those in authority. In a crisis you don’t want your staff to get all their information from the media, which will inevitably dramatise events. Clear dispassionate in-house communications are essential, bearing in mind that what is internal one minute can become external the next.

Inevitably social media will play a big role in your crisis response. You need a crisis social media plan, which determines the appropriate digital channels to use.

Three crisis social media rules to remember:

  • Don’t get in an online fight
    • There’s a lot of vitriol out there, take it on the chin!
  • Answer questions
    • If you have the resources, answer reasonable questions
  • Correct mistakes
    • Don’t let incorrect information become received wisdom

Once the comms team is convened ask these questions:

  • Are consistent and timely messages being delivered to internal and external audiences?
  • Are we in touch with the public mood?
  • Are all appropriate channels being used?

Next time: Information Management and Decision Making