Today’s business landscape is littered with risks of crises and unexpected issues. Should a crisis arise, it’s vital to respond in an accurate, timely and thorough manner.The key to responding well in a crisis is preparation. While most organizations are aware that it’s critical to have a crisis communications plan in place, many often struggle with what to include in the plan.
A crisis communications plan should include several key details, such as protocol to follow and how to respond and communicate appropriately, but also should be kept as simple as possible so it’s easily understandable during a time of crisis. Following are some key elements to include:
- In-Depth Overview: Introductory materials should outline why the plan was developed and detail best practices for how your organization will handle the situation and how messages are communicated.
- Crisis Team: Identify and include complete contact information for each member of the crisis team. Then outline the responsibilities of each member. Determine who will collect information, who will field media calls, who will serve as the spokesperson, and who will handle internal communications.
- Key Messages: Develop some overarching messages about the organization to convey should any crisis occur. These messages should guide your organization’s response to the crisis. Develop no more than three key messages and expand on each message with appropriate supporting facts and statistics.
- Tactics and Targets: Once messages and talking points are created, establish a communications action plan for reaching key publics. List all possible internal and external target audiences as it’s essential to communicate with any audience that might be touched by the crisis, using a consistent message. Consider adding support materials such as communication checklists, media lists, company policies, fact sheets, news release templates and other important materials in appendices.
- Outline of Crisis Scenarios: Every crisis plan should include examples of a crisis or incident that would trigger the need to respond. Examples of potential incidents include a natural disaster, lawsuit, cyberattack, violent crime, rumor, health issue or workplace harassment. A plan should include several hypothetical situations, a communication action to respond and key messages and talking points for all stakeholders.
- Internal Procedures: Determine how employees will receive key messages and how they will be reached during a crisis. Identify who will monitor the crisis so that the course of action can be adjusted as events warrant, as well as to further refine message development and focus communications activities more precisely.
Once a communications plan is complete, be sure to share it with all key executives and crisis team members. Prepare both digital and hard copies so that it’s easy to access quickly if needed. Keep in mind that a crisis plan should change over time. It should be a living document that is tested, re-evaluated and updated as needed. Incorporate the date the document was last edited or in an index that lets reviewers know what section was updated and when.
Incorporating key elements into a quality communications plan ensures your company will be more prepared to effectively handle communications related issues that arise during a crisis and should be a key component of an organization’s overall disaster recovery plan.