Written by Neil McLeod • Published 07th January 2015

When it comes to the business planning lists for 2015 drawn up by CEOs and Managing Directors, preparing a reputation management response probably does not feature.

Why should it? There are more pressing matters to deal with for the future growth and success of a company to concentrate on over the next 12 months.

Investment in talent and tech, development of ideas and contacts and the drive for new business may all be considered far more important, particularly as the country continues on the road of recovery.

Crisis management can represent the ugly side of running a business.

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With the gloss still gleaming on the New Year, business leaders can be forgiven for not wanting to darken their door with thoughts of how they could be attacked in the media over events taking place at the company.

Some may even believe that a media crisis cannot be planned for, that punches can be rolled with and when and having a strategy in place makes no difference.

The truth is, a jarring as it is, considering what you and your company would do in the face of a media storm is a business imperative.

The reason for this is a crisis can affect all of those planning elements which are referenced above.

If the answer to the question “Do we have a crisis plan?” is ‘no’, now is probably the time to address it.

If you don’t have a crisis plan, you can’t answer the most important question: What do we do, or who do we call, in a crisis?

While crises can differ, the truth is, most can be planned for in advance.

Crisis and reputation management is a Public Relations discipline which requires expertise and part of that expertise is the planning process.

With scrutiny of businesses at an all-time high, it is no good to simply believe a crisis won’t affect you.

No business runs completely smoothly. True, not all situations will lead to a media crisis, but it is worth being prepared.

To help prepare for 2015, below is a five-point checklist which we advise business leaders to consider:

1: What is on the horizon for 2015 which may trouble you in dealing with? Do you have any potential issues with employees, suppliers, products or business deals which you feel may escalate?

2: What interest has your company had from the press and media? You may have been fortunate enough to have been written about in the national press. This raises your profile and makes smaller matters more interesting. Even if you have not experience national coverage, your trade or regional publications might be interested in a negative story on you. Some of the most damaging stories can come from regional and trade publications as they are the ones closest to your business.

3: How would you communicate with other stakeholders? This includes your employees. Do you have a plan for internal communications in the event of a crisis?

4: Who you will call for external advice? Often, a third-eye is needed when forming a plan and managing crisis response. External consultants have the knowledge and expertise to deal with all manner of media crises, and their expertise comes with the ability to be more objective than a team which may be more emotionally tied up with the situation. They can also provide a barrier between you and the media.

5: Don’t be scared to ask for help in planning for crises. You may never need to activate the plan, but it is preferable to have one and not need it, rather than the other way round.