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Preparing Your Crisis Communications

GRIT’s public relations director Natonia Samchuck recently had the honor of presenting at the BCGL Enterprise Institute about Crisis Communications plans and how companies can be better prepared for when a crisis hits their organization. If you missed the presentation, don’t fret! The GRIT team is here for you and happy to share some of the core elements that every Crisis Communications plan should include.

 

What is a Crisis Communications Plan & why is it important?

A Crisis Communications plan is focused on getting all your ducks in a row before the unexpected crisis hits. The crisis could be an employee injury or death, a product failure, a criminal act by company leadership, a rumor or accusation, or even a weather-related incident to name a few. A Crisis Communications plan assesses your risks and puts measures in place to align your internal and external communication processes so that your company is better prepared to communicate your key messages with various key publics during the worst of times.

 

What Elements are Included in the Plan

Every plan is customized for an organization and there is no cookie-cutter solution to preparing for a crisis; however, there are a few key elements are you are most likely to find in all Crisis Communications plans.

 

Develop a crisis management team

Your crisis management team is a small group of company leaders who agree to be your “go-to” decision makers if and when a crisis happens. They are the leaders that receive a call when a crisis first hits and quickly participate in a planning session to determine next steps. Your legal counsel and communications experts are often included as part of this group and should work together to make sure all communication during a crisis protects your brand both in the community and in the courtroom.

The crisis management team is led by a crisis team coordinator. This person plays the key role of putting the plan into action when a crisis hits, coordinating the crisis management team and documenting all steps the organization takes during a crisis. This is a critical role that should be held by someone that is highly trusted by company leadership.

 

Identify likely crisis categories and scenarios

During the process of developing your Crisis Communications plan, your team should consider what crisis situations are most likely to take place at your organization (before it happens). In this phase, you are hoping for the best and planning for the worst and each risk level will vary depending on the industry. For instance, if you are a construction company and your employees are on the job site on a daily basis, employee injury is a real possibility.

 

Identify and train a Spokesperson

The best time to train your organization’s spokesperson is before a crisis. Identification of a spokesperson and media training of this leader is an important step in helping you prepare. Hands-on media training should include a video-taped role play that allows the trainer to put the trainee “in the hot seat” as they ask the tough questions that every leader dreads. Preparation now means when a crisis does hit, you will be more prepared and comfortable speaking with the media.

 

Create traditional and social media policies

Social and traditional media policies are critical before and during a crisis. These policies ensure that your clients understand that they are not permitted to represent your organization to traditional media or on social media. This policy protects your brand and allows the organization to control the messages that are being disseminated to the public during a crisis.

 

Although a Crisis Communications plan should be customized for your industry and organization, these key elements set a solid baseline for strategically preparing your communications before a crisis takes place.

Want to learn more about developing a Crisis Communications plan for your organization? Contact us here.