Rain, Sleet, Snow or Ice … Are you prepared?

Playing off my last post, Have a Plan Work the Plan, as well as the #smbiz chat held tonight on Twitter, I felt the need to share a bit on disaster planning and its importance. Throughout my career, I’ve seen businesses with great crisis plans in place along crisis planningwith those that have extremely poor plan … or even no plan at all.

In Oklahoma — between spring storms, tornadoes and massive ice storms — the risks for weather-related disasters are plentiful. Also, living in an area of the country where oil and gas-related businesses can be found on every corner, the risk of man-made disasters is on my mind frequently too.

A former employer of mine happened to be focused on serving the oil & gas industry by inspecting and repairing live pipelines. The likelihood of an accident occurring on those pipelines was extremely high. On my first day of employment, I asked whether the company had a crisis plan. The answer I received was a resounding “no”. Once I got over my initial shock, I sat down and started outlining possible scenarios.

Steps to Developing a Crisis Plan
1) Brainstorm scenarios — Think about every possible crisis that could affect your business. These can be natural or man-made, physical or technological. etc. Think about the common issues that might arise but also think creatively and consider slightly off-the-wall situations that might throw you a curve ball.
2) Pull together the crisis team — Gather your cross-functional representatives and discuss scenarios and the company’s responses to each.
3) Start answering questions — Where will your command center be located? What materials will you need for each scenario? Who is on the crisis call list? Who will be your spokesperson? Consider every scenario and prepare yourself for how the company will react. Choose the leaders in your organization who will get things done quickly and correctly.
4) Write it all down — Create an actual written plan that outlines everything that is decided. This not only provides a playbook by which you can practice but it also gives the company a foundation for future changes, especially as employees change.
5) Practice, practice, practice — Very important to the success of a crisis plan is the practice that your organization puts in. Take time at least once a year to run through the basics of your plan. This will prepare you for the occasion when a crisis actually hits and give your team the confidence to react calmly and professionally.

This is nothing new to you, I’m sure. But it is important. Let me know your thoughts on what I’ve missed.

Image: Flickr.com (Carrie Peters)

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This Great Nation

Every time I fly, I look out the window of the plane and it occurs to me that there aren’t many places in the world where you can see so many different landscapes in one single nation. Whether you enjoy the warm waters of the Gulf, the beaches of California, the rugged shoreline of Oregon or the historic significance of our nation’s capital, I fall in love with this country more every day.

I’m not sure how many of you have really traveled the US, but I have been fortunate enough to do that quite a bit … mostly as a child, but also in my career. Growing up, my family took long vacations every summer. My dad is a professor of leisure studies at Oklahoma State. His job is to educate students about the value of tourism and how interpretiveservices around the country add value to vacationers and business people alike.

Our family vacations were often joint trips for him to visit his students interning around the country. Through these trips, I was able to see a great deal of the country – 47 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia were hit before my freshman year of high school. The only states lacking in my tour of the US are Hawaii, Alaska and Washington. I honestly believe every child should have the opportunity to visit all the states while they are young. One thing I can tell you is that by visiting the landmarks that we studied each year in school, I was better prepared to understand the value of each to the history our country. The one thing about my childhood vacations that I should point out is that we camped our way across the nation. So not only was I 3058333268_39133d78f7learning about the country but I was also gaining a new appreciation for the comforts of home. Plus it was cheaper than staying in hotels. I have been able to revisit many of these locations as an adult, and the pleasure I experienced as a kid is still there. I want to share with you a few of my favorite locations.

First is the coast of Maine. There are a number of things I love about Maine … from the lighthouses dotting the shoreline protecting ships from the rocks below to the LL Bean outlet store where I have been known to drop a pretty penny on those preppy sweaters and rugged shoes. My first visit to Maine was during August of eighth grade. It was unusually hot … or so they told us. Very few buildings had air conditioning but that was fine with us. We found ways to cool down, and the best was to simply put your feet in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean. I fell for the lighthouses in a big way. To this day, one of my dream trips is to tour all the lighthouses of the east coast.

464750510_56e215d0a4_mMy second place is a little closer to home in the Ozarks. For one of our trips, we spent two weeks traveling around Arkansas and Missouri. While some would think that was not the most exciting trip on record, I must say that both states of a lot to offer. My most vivid memory of that trip is of our family friend’s oldest son leading us on a hike through Queen Wilhelmina State Park. For some reason he led us in circles for several hours, wandering around the trails with absolutely no clue where he was going. Of course, the rest of us just followed along until someone realized that we had passed the same trail marker three times. At that point, my dad took over but we still have a good laugh over David getting us lost. Of course this is the same guy who put salt in our canteens on a hike up Mt. Elbert in Colorado so we didn’t have water for the tallest peak in the state. My husband and I still vacation in Arkansas by taking long weekends to Beaver Lake near Fayetteville.

The third place on my list of amazing locations is the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. I really do have a 533844708_8634226469_mthing for lighthouses, and in this case Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful locations I’ve visited. Just outside of Duluth, it’s probably not the ideal vacation location for everyone, but it really is a great place to visit. There is a resort located on the north shore that we visited several years when we lived in Minnesota, and then I returned right after I graduated college. Cute little log cabins where you can relax and get away from the hassles of life for a while.

These are just three of the places I’ve been in the US, but they represent so much more about this country that I don’t think most people realize. I hope you take a look at your next vacation and think about where you’ve never been but have always wanted to visit. There is so much to offer … make sure you take advantage and make your next road trip a truly memorable one.

Have a plan, Work the plan

My motto — have a plan, work the plan. Maybe it’s my anal tendencies but I find it’s extremely important to plan. I know I come by this trait honestly as my dad is the same way.

Our family vacations as a child were outlined to the minute weeks before leaving. Dad would document every stop on our itinerary and we stuck to it like glue. There were a few stops along the way where he would present options — either we can visit Museum X or hit Amusement Park Z. Those vacations provided me with adventures and opportunities I never truly appreciated until much later in life. Not only did I get the chance to travel around the United States but I also learned the value of a plan.

I chose public relations as my career because I enjoy the challenge and variety offered by different clients and business settings. Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate the importance of planning in the PR industry. With a plan, the organization has a roadmap to follow, a direction in which to head. Even if adjustments have to made down the path, the plan provides a foundation.

During my career, I’ve watched businesses progress from two extremes — those without a plan, floundering as they struggle to grow and success, and those with a plan who find avenues that work well but are flexible enough to accommodate changing economic landscapes. As a communication professional, it’s my job to encourage the company to build that plan. If the company is unwilling or unable to do so, what should the PR professional do?

Image: Flickr.com (Ronnashore)

New member of our family

It’s been several months since I posted anything here and really need to do a better job of blogging about life. I thought I might introduce you to the newest member of our family. This is Yogi, or Yogi Bear as I call him — much to hubby’s dismay, a Maltese/Chihuahua mix who stole my heart a few weeks ago. Yogi joins our family after we lost our baby, Gracie (Cairn Terrier), in late February. She was the joy of our lives for a little more than eight years. It broke my heart to watch her pass but I was thankful when her pain finally ended. Yogi doesn’t replace her but he certainly makes the grief easier to bear.

As someone who never had pets growing up, I’ve surprised myself to feel such attachment to my pets. However, they each bring such interesting perspectives to each day. When I’m stressed at work, I walk in the front door to find my three cats and pup waiting for me, tails wagging. Such simplicity. Their pleasure eases the stress away and helps make that transition from work to home. In fact, Yogi joined me in the office on Friday afternoon.