‘Always on call’: The crisis manager who starts her day at 4.30am

By Sue White

Name: Sally Branson
The profession: Crisis PR management
The organisation: Sally Branson Consulting Group
The title: Crisis manager
The pay: A crisis manager can earn between $180,000 and $200,000 a year.

Crisis manager Sally Branson says her work requires her to always be on call.
Crisis manager Sally Branson says her work requires her to always be on call.

4.30am: The reality of working in a crisis is that no one day is the same. The key is to have what I can have controlled and organised, so that when a crisis hits I can move fast.

We are in Queensland, so it’s very light, very early which is conducive to getting up and going. It’s a good time to work out my priorities for the day, get an overview of what my workflow will look like and make sure I can be as flexible as I can if an urgent crisis comes up.

I try not to jump straight into emails and reply to them all first thing. Instead, I check if any urgent messages have come through overnight, glance through any media monitoring I have scheduled, and check social media for my clients and my own little dopamine hit! I compose emails to my team but schedule their send to 8am AEST.

Then, I write plans, strategies and statements and edit drafts from clients. I also re-read my writing from the previous day while I am fresh. Every single word matters, so I read and re-read. This is my absolute favourite time to work.

6am: Work stops for the work of parenting. The phone is always on, but not in my hand as I get the boys ready for school. I try for it not to be a time of rush or drama, but inevitably a school shoe goes missing. If my husband is home, we take turns to zip down to the beach for a quick dip. It’s a fast saltwater reset.

8am: Depending on the day or week, I have a quick coffee with school-mum friends or a planning meeting with my husband. Between us, we have three businesses, so this time is really critical for us to set up the week.

10am: Back at my desk, I get straight into check-ins with clients and my team. I’ve got eight amazing people on my team, and I bring them into the work depending on what our clients need, or what their area of expertise is – media reputation work or a bit of government relations?

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I work using a pomodoro timer. My brain sometimes gets happily distracted by shiny things, so this helps me focus on getting jobs done.

Today, I have a long check-in with a client I’ve spent the past three weeks working intensely with. Her crisis has broken, but I like to keep following up to check on how she is feeling and managing the stress of the crisis. Some crises are really “corporate”, but others are deeply personal and involve truly the worst-case scenario. In this case, there was a complex death in her workplace.

Noon: It’s a great lifestyle being on the Gold Coast, but it’s important to do some face-to-face meetings, so I time organising my upcoming monthly Sydney visit. I will fly down and jam-pack the day with a mix of clients and contacts.

2pm: A messaging exchange for about 10 minutes to a preferred psychologist to see if she’s got any availability for a client. I’ve got a network of people like this, so my clients have every single support they could possibly need.

3.30pm: I think it’s important to discuss the unpaid work that we fit into our days. On my turn for school pick-up, I am beyond excited to see my boys, and we do family time for the rest of the day.

The nature of running a crisis business is always being on call and being flexible if it’s urgent. If I get a call and it’s not urgent I follow up and set a time for either a night-time call when the boys are asleep or the next day.

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