Number one rule of crisis planning: prepare for the crisis before it happens. You’ve likely seen the devastating headlines by now about the farm fire in Texas that took the lives of thousands of animals and injured an employee. Our hearts go out to the farm owners and workers who are now left to clean up this tragic mess.
Far too often, these types of unexpected and/or natural disasters are used by animal rights extremist organizations to kick us when we’re down and to capitalize on our misfortune. This includes groups putting out negative statements and billboards near where the accident occurred in efforts to gain attention and publicity, holding “vigils” to mourn the lives of any animals involved, and protesting at the farm or facility.
Unfortunately, most crises are unexpected – we don’t know when or if they’re going to happen – but we can have a plan in place so we’re ready to take action if they do. Here are several components you should make sure to include in your farm, organization, or company’s crisis communications plan:
- Potential scenarios: Optimize your crisis planning by thinking through potential scenarios that could impact your company. This could include an animal disease outbreak, transportation accident, natural disaster, and animal rights targeting. Consider each scenario and how your team will respond.
- Core team: Develop a crisis response team that includes essential team members who may need to take immediate action if a crisis or unexpected disaster occurs. Make sure that these people know they are a part of the core crisis management team and that they know their roles and responsibilities in the matter. This will help them take swift action in a crisis.
- Contact lists: Who are the key contacts that you need to notify in the event of a crisis? This may vary based on the type of crisis you’re facing (such as a natural disaster or disease outbreak), but it’s important to have these contacts identified along with who needs to be responsible for informing those contacts of what happened. In a crisis, time is of the essence. Make sure to prioritize contacts that need to be made aware first.
- Key messages and response materials: Negative news gets the most attention and airplay, so it’s likely your crisis situation could draw media inquiries and concerned community members. Be prepared with key messages and response materials that can easily be customized when crisis strikes. You should also have a list of designated spokespeople that can represent your company in interviews with media.
Once you have these items nailed down, you’ll be in a much better place to handle a potential crisis. While we hope that you never have to deal with a crisis situation, it’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive. If you’d like access to additional crisis planning resources or support, consider becoming an Alliance member: https://animalagalliance.org/support-us/membership/.
Emily Solis is the manager of communications and content at the Animal Agriculture Alliance. In her role, she works to execute the Alliance’s issues management and communications strategy.