Could Your Overseas Executives be Kidnapping Targets?

Photo by Marc VeraartIn anticipation of conducting crisis training for a client, we recently requested a copy of their crisis communications plan. Much to the chagrin of the company's communications leader, he provided a document that had been in the works for literally years, but remained unfinished. My suggestion: circulate the unfinished draft and get it approved. 

A crisis communication plan is never finished. It is a living, breathing thing. I've seen a quote attributed alternately to Confucius and Voltaire that sums up my feelings about crisis communications planning: "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good." By striving for a perfect plan, and in the process delaying the completion of a good enough plan, you are endangering your entire organization.

It can actually be empowering to realize that the crisis communications plan can never be completed. It gives you license to constantly tweak and update the plan. We recommend updating the crisis communications plan at least annually, but I think it is more healthy to constantly revisit the plan and update it whenever circumstances warrant.

This brings me to a great article in the December 1, 2014 issue of Fortune. "The Great Escape Business," by Erika Fry describes the burgeoning "travel risk management industry," which is the business of helping companies extract personnel from unstable regions.

What’s a big corporation to do when staff in its far-flung offices need to get out of Dodge—often while curfews, martial law, road closures, armed rebels and sundry other unforeseen challenges conspire against them?

Ideally, this is not the moment to think fast, but to fall back on one’s rigorously tested emergency response and evacuation plans.

This is a great example of why it is important to revisit and periodically adjust the contents of crisis communications plans. While businesses operating in the Middle East have understood the risks in the past, the constantly changing tactics of terror groups such as ISIL have changed the threat landscape. Are these changes reflected in your crisis communications plan? With kidnappings of highly visible people being used as a means to deliver the messages of terror organizations, it is time to examine how your organization would address the kidnapping or murder of a top executive, especially if normal communication channels are unreliable or unavailable.

As noted in the Fortune article, there are entire emerging industries devoted to assisting. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the services that are applicable for the conceivable situations in which your business may need them.

Nobody likes to think about these events, but it is important to resist the temptation to push them aside. Complete that crisis communications plan and start weaving it into the fabric of your culture. It won't do any good gaining digital dust as bits and bites on your PC.

Photo credit: Marc Veraart