Are You Prepared for the Unthinkably Inevitable?
in Compliance & Regulatory
By: David Reed, Attorney, Reed and Jolly, PLLC.

Let’s face it, we live in a world where many different things can go wrong at our credit union very quickly. Add that to the fact that our news cycle has gone from days to seconds, and you must understand that you need to be prepared. Crisis communications boils down to anticipating likely negative events and preparing your message before it happens.

Here are a few simple tips to initiate your crisis communications plan:

  • Create a Crisis Management Team made up of key stakeholders and arm them with a written crisis response plan and a complete contact list, which includes cell phone numbers;
  • Remember to include volunteers as well as needed local resources such as police, fire, rescue and utilities. Many institutions offer these resources to the team members in paper and on a thumb drive or other convenient device in case internet access is down for an extended period of time;
  • Conduct a quick inventory of likely negative events. You need to look no further than your local newspapers or trade publications to see that data breaches, internal fraud and potential legal claims are just a few likely negative scenarios. Understand the basic components of each scenario and be prepared to assess the full scope of the issues presented. Prepare an outline of the potential negative member impact and create a message that places a positive spin on each;
  • Consider conducting periodic table top exercises involving all staff and focus on a specific scenario and the responsibilities each person will have during that event. Remember the old adage, knowing is not enough, we must apply it; and
  • Finally, create a clear “chain of communication command”, which selects the primary spokesperson and emphasizes the need for a consistent message. In other words, only one person is able to make official comments for the credit union.

You will need to work elements of crisis communications into all of your related policies and procedures, including Disaster Recovery Plan, Social Media Policy and Employee Responsibility or Conduct Policies. Targeted preparation can reduce the sting of a negative event, and place your credit union in the best possible light during the darkest of moments.

At the League's July 13, 2018 Compliance Conference, I will discuss the EEOC guidelines regarding employer liability and discuss what actions credit unions need to take in order to comply with the various guidelines to prevent harassment and enforce effective complaint procedures. Register now!