The Importance of a Crisis Communication Plan

Crisis communication management

One poorly managed crisis can unravel decades worth of good work done by an organization. However, your company’s preparation and proactive response to a PR crisis can make or break the situation. That’s where a crisis communication plan comes into play.

What is a crisis communication plan?

You may be wondering what a crisis communication plan is. Typically, it’s a multi-page document meant to guide a company’s crisis team. It identifies the steps to take to control the flow of information regarding the issue. Remember, communication is key in managing a crisis.

Timely responses are important to help avoid damaging a company’s reputation. A pre-written plan ensures the crisis team communicates efficiently with employees, the media and the public.

Plus, it’s a great way to identify any potential issues before a crisis occurs. The last thing anyone wants during a crisis is for another issue to pop up. If your company does not already have a crisis communication plan in place, now is the time to do so.

List potential crises

Before you begin putting the plan together, brainstorm potential crises that could occur relating to your business. Remember to think of worst case scenarios and leave no stone unturned. If you aren’t sweating a little as you write your list, you haven’t gone deep enough. Then, you can begin to bucket those scenarios based on level of severity.

There are three levels of crisis, with Level 1 being the most severe. A Level 1 crisis would be a worst-case scenario, such as an on-site death. These are situations where crisis communications will span over several days.

A Level 3 crisis is the least severe. These are problematic issues that have the potential to gain steam, but will not have a long-lasting impact.

An example of this is an angry employee taking revenge against their company in an online forum. Also, be sure to consider crises specific to your business because every crisis plan looks different. We know that thinking of these dilemmas isn’t fun. However, it’s important to list them all so there’s a plan should one occur.

List important contacts

Each crisis communication plan needs to include a dedicated communications team. This team will gather information on the crisis, communicate it externally and monitor outside responses. Each team should include a primary spokesperson to represent the company, with secondary spokespeople as needed. These are usually company executives.

Other members of a crisis communications team should include the lead PR representative, who will guide the overall messaging. Additional members of the team could include law enforcement or other key partners.

Who is the audience?

Maintaining consistent and trustworthy communication is paramount to maintaining control in a crisis situation, and it is important to identify a comprehensive list of audiences who expect to hear from you. These could include employees, customers, the media, investors and community partners.

Next, prepare a step-by-step guide outlining how you will remain transparent in sharing updates to each of these groups. Some examples are canceling upcoming social media posts, sending emails and personally contacting individuals to keep them informed.

Build the plans of action

Each potential crisis should have a plan of action that follows it to guide the team. There are two categories of action steps: immediate and communication. First, immediate action steps are those that need to happen immediately after a crisis, such as the initial point of contact.

Second, your communication action steps involve how the situation will be publicly communicated. This is where key messages and statements will be shared. For example, some communication action steps include speaking with local law enforcement and creating resources for the public.

To better guide the spokespeople, list potential questions the media could ask and what the key talking points should be. This will help the company control the messaging by timing when different pieces of information are shared. Media training is useful for this purpose, in addition to helping employees interact with the media in any capacity.

Ready to begin?

While you won’t be able to predict every crisis, implementing a proactive plan prepares your team for any crisis that could occur. Your team will have resources they need to adapt to the unknown.

We highly recommend every company has a crisis communications plan. After all, nobody wants to be caught off guard.

Still not sure where to begin? Crisis communications can be scary and you may not know where to start. Contact us today to learn how we can help your company with crisis management!