Problems are inevitable in business, and, unfortunately, that includes really big problems.
No matter how robustly you’ve built your company, you simply cannot foresee every major challenge coming your way. We are all vulnerable to something happening unexpectedly.
When a crisis hits—whether it’s a major problem in your production line, a workplace accident, or a serious social media gaffe—your priority as a business owner is to do all you can to contain the damage and prevent the situation from degenerating into a bona fide dumpster fire.
Emergencies are chaotic by nature. Confusion spreads, wires get crossed, and people end up unsure about what to do or who should do it. This is why it’s so crucial to establish well-defined protocols in advance to guide your communications response to a crisis.
Enter: The crisis communication plan.
In this post, we’ll outline the essential components of a crisis communication plan and guide you through steps for building one yourself. We’ll also look at some examples of how other companies have reacted to crises (with varying levels of success!).
What we’ll cover
- What is a crisis communication plan and why do you need one?
- 5 essential elements of a crisis communication plan
- 7 tips for building a crisis communication plan
- 3 examples of companies that aced (and botched) their crisis communications
Let’s kick things off by looking at what a crisis communication plan is and why it’s a good idea to have one.
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What is a crisis communication plan and why do you need one?
The purpose of a crisis communication plan is to set the communications guidelines that your company will follow when it suddenly finds itself in the middle of a crisis.
These guidelines will define what actions should be taken when a crisis first hits, who will be responsible for those actions, and how information should be disseminated to customers, employees, investors, the general public, the media, and any other relevant stakeholders as events unfold.
When a crisis occurs, various people connected to your company will be thrown into a state of doubt and left wondering how it will impact their needs and interests. It’s your responsibility to ensure that they aren’t left in the dark any longer than is necessary. Following a predefined plan will make sure that your communications response to a crisis is swift, decisive, and accounts for all affected parties.
Failing to act promptly and keep your stakeholders informed can significantly exacerbate a crisis. Mismanagement increases the likelihood of lawsuits, job loss, profit loss, fractured employee morale, and can lead to a major loss of trust in your business.
But if your response to a crisis follows a coherent strategy—in which well-prepared spokespeople disseminate crucial information quickly and accurately to the appropriate audiences—you’ll have more than a fighting chance of preserving your company’s reputation.
Clearly, preparing for the worst with a crisis communication plan is all part of sensible business leadership. It’s like an insurance policy: hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but it’s good to know it’s there if something does go wrong.
So now let’s look at what components you should expect to find in any effective crisis communication plan.
5 essential elements of a crisis communication plan
Your crisis communication strategy should incorporate the following key elements:
1. A crisis communication team
A crisis plan should specify the people within your organization who’ll be charged with the responsibility of gathering information and orchestrating internal and external communications when things start to go south.
The crisis communications team should include your senior management team as well as any social media or web managers who can monitor external conversations to better gauge the mood among customers and other stakeholders. The better you understand how people are reacting to the crisis in real time, the more accurately you can prioritize your responses.
Everyone’s role within the team should be clearly defined. For example, it should be obvious who’s responsible for collecting insights, who’s responsible for internal communications, and who will act as spokespeople for your different audiences. This leads us to the next point… – Read more
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