Pillsbury Law; Crisis Management Resource Center; Crisis Management Resources; FAQs
Crisis Management Resource Center
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  • Effectively managing a corporate crisis necessarily requires a multi-disciplinary approach. The exact composition of the team will depend on the nature of the crisis. A major industrial accident, for example, will implicate different skill sets than a corporate whistle blower alleging fraudulent accounting. Most corporate crises, however, will require a team comprised of the following types of individuals: executive management, operations management, regulatory and litigation counsel, subject matter experts, communication specialists and human resource professionals.
  • The identity of the spokesperson will depend on the nature, location and profile of the crisis, as well as strategic considerations. Basic logistics often drive the decision depending on where the majority of responding media are located. A plant manager, for example, often is the appropriate spokesperson for an incident at an operating site. The magnitude of the event may require direct participation by a senior executive, perhaps even the CEO. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that the company does not inadvertently magnify a "local" issue by having too senior of an executive act as spokesperson. In any case, the person must have strong communication skills, excellent judgment and be able to effectively personify the organization.
  • This is among one of the most challenging issues company counsel will confront in responding to a crisis. Key stakeholders, including employees, shareholders, customers and regulators now routinely expect companies to promptly share information regarding the crisis as it unfolds. Safeguarding the company's legal rights and interests at the same time is difficult but essential given the likelihood of follow-on litigation and, increasingly, criminal investigations. For this reason, it is essential that organizations retain legal counsel well versed in managing the multiple-faceted nature of corporate crises and who are experienced in striking the balance among transparency, cooperation and the company's legal interests.
  • As the saying goes, "practice makes perfect." Although each crisis is different and no drill ever can approximate the unique challenges posed by a major corporate crisis, drills provide organizations with the chance to have personnel become accustomed to their roles and provide an excellent opportunity for companies to get the kinks out of crisis management processes. Highlighting barriers to effective communication (e.g., out-dated phone lists) or identifying insufficient outside resources are frequent benefits of recurrent drills.
  • One of the most common mistakes made by companies is failing to appreciate the magnitude of a crisis and being slow to respond. Believing that something will just "blow over" or is only a local/regional issue is a common error. Some crises are like tsunamis — barely detectable at sea but destined to wreck havoc as they crest and crash over the shore. Too often companies fail to appreciate the forces that are gathering in the form of multiple governmental investigations, third-party litigation and public scrutiny. Getting out in front of these issues is essential. It always is possible to scale back the corporate response if worst-case scenarios fail to play out, but an organization can quickly find itself overwhelmed and at a persistent disadvantage if it does not mount a prompt and effective response.

    Another common mistake occurs when a company does not carefully consider all relevant issues when commencing internal investigations into the underlying events. Questions of scope and the composition of the investigation team need to be decided promptly. It is especially important to consider whether such investigations should be conducted under legal privileges. Some regulatory programs require investigations of certain incidents, and care needs to be taken in how such investigations are established to ensure that legal privileges are not unwittingly compromised. In some cases, dual investigations are appropriate, and issues of scope, coordination and resourcing need to be addressed to ensure that both investigations meet their objectives.
  • Outside advisors are key members of corporate crisis response teams. They often provide unique subject matter experience, have strong relationships with regulators or investigating agencies, and can quickly provide additional human resources to prevent the company from being overwhelmed by rapidly unfolding demands. It is especially important for these advisors to have experience in complex crises so that they can advise and help coordinate the multiple elements of the company's response. 
  • Although most sophisticated organizations have corporate and site-specific crisis management plans, many companies neglect to arm in-house law departments with the right tools. We find in-house legal teams often benefit from having their own plans, and we work with clients to develop crisis management "tool kits" specifically for the lawyers. A "Major Accident Guidebook," for example, can serve as an invaluable reference manual to assist company counsel in identifying and managing issues most likely to arise within the first 48 to 96 hours after an event. These guidebooks are most useful when they include examples of relevant documents, including forms that may be used in support of the company’s response (document production logs, employee interview admonitions, etc.)