Sitting behind a sea of microphones at a press conference with hungry reporters is not the time to create a crisis communication plan. Although no company ever wants to consider what could happen if a crisis were to take place, a crisis communication plan is necessary in order to ensure that a company can withstand the heat of controversy. Here are some simple steps to develop your plan.
Consider the Possibilities- No matter how big or small your company is, a crisis can take place! Thinking about all of the possibilities beforehand helps you prepare different ways to deal with different situations. Another benefit is the ability to see if there are some current operational changes that can be made to avoid a crisis. Does your company need customers to sign a waiver? Is staff trained properly? Thinking through each detail of your company can assist you with determining what’s best.
Identify Your Crisis Communications Team- During a crisis, most often the leader of the company is pulled to speak to the press but there are other people that research the information, gather facts, brief the leader and prepare statements. Identify who those people will be and when to bring each member into the crisis.
Identify and Train Spokespersons-It is assumed that the leader of the organization will make all crisis related statements, but what happens if the top leader isn’t available to address the press? Is the top leader even the appropriate person? Each potential spokesperson needs to be trained in order to ensure that everyone is ready if necessary.
Identify and Know Your Stakeholders- Think about who your crisis will effect. Is it your customer base only? Does it affect people outside of your immediate stakeholders such as the general community or population? Depending upon the crisis, the plan must be tailored to not only determine who but also how your stakeholders will be affected and how they may potentially react. The plan must then be scaled to appropriately address stakeholder concerns and provide follow up actions.
Have a follow up plan- This is one of the most critical pieces of the entire crisis communication plan because it helps you to evaluate the overall damage of the crisis. Determine how you will update your stakeholders on improvements and what procedures will go into place to prevent this crisis from happening in the future. The follow up plan must also include mechanisms that will help your company listen to stakeholder complaints. In the end, the entire crisis communication team must come together to evaluate the overall success of the plan.