Outline your plan
Begin by outlining the plan, explaining how your organisation will communicate about the crisis and go about detailing the crisis itself. Be sure to include:
- The purpose of the plan: Why is this plan necessary?
- Activation criteria: Who will activate the plan and at what point?
- Procedures: What steps need to be taken when it comes to internal and external communication, who is responsible for what, and what communication channels will be used to execute the plan?
Identify your crisis communication team
You need a team of people who are in your corner should the worst come to worst. These people are the ones who are responsible for collecting information, creating and posting key messages, and dealing with the media, if necessary. Most importantly, they’ll monitor the response to the crisis and the communication itself.
Your plan will identify team members, describe their roles, and feature any necessary contact information so others can easily contact these key figures.
Know what you want to say
Language is a powerful thing. And in the aftermath of a crisis, your words can either soothe tempers or add fuel to the fire, so it’s vital you know what you’re communicating to the outside world.
In formulating a response, your messaging should:
- Identify the cause of the crisis
- Briefly detail what happened
- Communicate how you intend to respond
- Be understanding and compassionate towards any victims
Pass any messaging to the appropriate members of staff, as well as your organisation’s legal time, so they can work out any kinks or ambiguities if necessary.
Brief your employees on internal procedures
A whisper here, a quick natter to a family member there; an employee who unwittingly spills the beans can make matters worse if they aren’t careful. Along with identifying how employees will receive your messaging (such as through meetings, emails or the company’s intranet), make them aware of your media and social media policy.
You want to avoid rumours and hearsay as much as possible; keep a lid on things by making it clear that they are not to talk to the media.
Create a contact and media list
By creating a list of phone numbers and contacts ahead of time, you can create a community of supporters to rely on in the event of a crisis. Your strong customer service will come in useful here too; with an army of supporters willing to defend you, dealing with the crisis becomes a whole lot easier. Additionally, make a list of local, national, and trade press contacts, as well as influential trade and industry bloggers who may be able to help out.
This also helps with crises that may put employees or others in physical danger. List public health departments, evacuation centres, police and fire departments, and other related contacts who you may need to physically rely on.
Draw up an appendix
Lastly, you should include a section featuring guidelines, checklists and forms that can help you in creating your crisis communications, including:
- A checklist of first steps
- Media and social media policy
- A media call log to note down calls or communication received from the media
- Internal and external communication checklists
- Press release templates
- Legal, PR and media contact information