Recently we did some work with a client who had been wronged. Pretty badly wronged actually. And it was going to come out that they had been wronged, but it might look a bit embarrassing that they were able to be wronged. So they spoke to us and we did some work with them on how best to prepare.

It's an unusual situation when you've done nothing wrong but someone has done something wrong to you and you might still look like an egg. It's not a common one but it can still happen, and fortunately the client we worked with didn't wait until after it broke before talking to the experts. They prepared.

We got them to explain exactly what had happened, what they knew, what they wanted to know, and then suggested some things they might like to know that they hadn't mentioned - the unknown unknowns.

Once this was done we set about writing a plan. This meant:

  1. identifying all the audiences involved,
  2. figuring out through which channel we'd reach those audiences
  3. what we wanted those audiences to go away knowing;
  4. and the messages we'd use to make that so.

The audiences we identified were:

  • Staff
  • Key clients
  • All other clients
  • Everyone else external

Staff needed their own set of messages to be able to use if they were asked about the issue so we built that into the narrative for them. We created a script to use when talking to staff, as well as another script to use for key clients. We drafted an email to send to all other clients and then we prepared a holding statement if anyone else (including media) asked any questions. We also did a Q&A section of any possible questions that anyone might ask. Having this for the client was really useful in case something got thrown their way that we hadn't included in any of the scripts.

On the day it was going to break, staff were briefed first, then key clients and other clients and then came the expected publicity about the case. We stayed in close contact with the client throughout the day but everything ran smoothly because we had planned. We anticipated the questions that might get asked, we had answers for everything and we were able to just run through what we'd planned to do.

The client was very happy, but not because we'd been amazing, mainly because they'd been in a position where a stressful event occurred but they weren't left scrambling because they had everything down on paper.

Now obviously sometimes it's impossible to plan for these things because you may get surprised by them - we wrote about emergency comms here but if you do have a few days warning then either you, or a professional agency, can help you so that on the day it doesn't have to be too stressful for you.