Or: how to begin your crisis communications plan in five minutes
This year I’ve signed on several new clients (welcome aboard, all!) and along with devising happy new PR plans together, I’ve been turning us towards darker thoughts.
Like: what could possibly go wrong in your organisation?
And what would you say if things did?
It’s all about developing a crisis communications plan, one of those super-useful tasks we should all undertake, but somehow don’t get around to. (Like consolidating your superannuation accounts, shopping around for a new home mortgage provider, or having an all-over skin cancer check).
Argh, this post just gets merrier, the further we go along!
As it’s a task that’s often loathsome to face, I’ve pulled together some broad topics or headings a good crisis communications plan should include. Write these down now and get underway with your plan in just five minutes:
Purpose and scope of the plan:
This need be just one paragraph – explain what the heck this plan is for. “This document helps guide Boom Boom Boutique’s communications in the event of a crisis. It should be used in conjunction with BBB’s risk management plan. It does not replace BBB’s emergency evacuation plan”. Set the scene so the panicked people who grab this plan will know they have the right piece of paper.
Be specific and write a list. Write exactly what could go wrong – and the steps your organisation would take. For example: “Boutique burns to the ground” or “Boutique alleged to have used unhygienic fingernail clipping practices”.
Draft public statements:
Write some statements in preparation. You can adapt these as needed if a crisis occurs. “We are devastated that Boom Boom Boutique has burned to the ground today. We are thankful nobody was hurt. We are working with emergency services to …” This may feel bizarre, but it’s worth doing now, not when your nerves are jangling during a major unexpected incident and people are panicking around you. Remember to be clear, honest and sensitive with your statements. Don’t fudge things, don’t avoid apologising, show concern and let people know you’ll keep them updated.
List of key contacts:
This is a clear list of who should be called when a crisis occurs. Think of this as the smaller crisis team who will need to work on the response and decide how to inform others. Imagine them sitting around a table. From senior management, to a specific operations manager, your PR adviser, perhaps a HR and legal adviser – and don’t forget your social media manager. This list includes their mobile and landline numbers. You’ll be grateful for that quick and handy sheet, should you need to call around – at any time of day or night.
List of key stakeholders:
A thorough list of major stakeholders (and contact details). This will remind you of people who may need to know about your crisis, quickly (and before they hear of it via other means). This could include suppliers, government funders, sponsors, business neighbours and more. Have a good ol’ brainstorm about this one. (If you’re lucky, your already-thorough public relations plan contains this list of stakeholders).