June 13, 2016

When it Comes to Crisis: Plan for Worst, Hope for Best

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

W hat’s the one thing that keeps you up and night, the one thing you hope never happens on or to your dairy? That’s a crisis. It could be a fire, a tornado, an employee death, an incident caused by an activist or an infinite number of other bad things (sorry). We can’t control the future, but dairy farmers can buy themselves a lot of peace of mind by getting and staying prepared for any eventuality.

“It’s the things that farmers don’t want to think about that they need to be prepared for,” says Stacy Dohle, a senior communications manager with the Midwest Dairy Association. “Who’s going to handle the phones? Who’s going to direct traffic? Who’s going to speak to the media? You need to have a response team,” she says.

The core components of a crisis plan involve task assignments: who will handle what when a crisis happens, according to Darrel McCauley of the University of Wisconsin Extension. That response team could include employees, owners, the farm’s veterinarian or nutritionist, etc. McCauley recommends identifying a spokesperson and considering releasing a prepared statement if there’s media interest. Don’t forget about social media. “Who’s going to update the farm’s Facebook page as rumors start spreading?” Dohle asks.

McCauley also recommends farmers create a call log in, which records all phone calls from the media and other parties inquiring about the crisis. This will help you return calls in a timely fashion and piece together what happened after the fact, he says. Once you have a plan, make sure all employees know where to access the information and double check the phone numbers listed are current. “In other words, don’t just do it and file it away,” Dohle says.