Why Your Business Needs a Crisis Communications Plan
From Main Street to Wall Street, companies of all sizes and across all industries can find themselves in a crisis at any given moment in time. What sets successful companies apart has much to do with how they handle these unexpected events and issues that may arise – both large and small. A company’s response to an emergency or unexpected event can affect the success and longevity of business, and ultimately impacts the trust and perception of customers, key stakeholders, and the public at large.
Why does your organization need a crisis communications plan? In the event of an emergency or crisis, your company’s reputation is on the line – it’s important to respond to the event quickly and appropriately to ensure all employees, clients, and relevant stakeholders understand what is going on and what the company is doing to address the situation. During a time of crisis, your organization may be under intense public scrutiny. A crisis communications plan can provide employees with the knowledge necessary to make the right decisions during the emergency, such as who they can and cannot talk to and what information they can or cannot discuss. A quick response with a consistent message also helps ensure that all potentially impacted parties have the information they need to weather a crisis – especially in cases where life or safety is at stake.
Crises can have detrimental impacts on a company’s integrity and financial worth, which can take valuable time and resources to restore. During a time of crisis, hesitation, uncertainty, or a lack of visibility in internal and external communication can result in catastrophic consequences. In cases where there is a risk to public health or safety, a swift, transparent, and coherent response is essential to preserving a company’s reputation and public safety.
If an organization is in business long enough, it will inevitably be impacted by some sort of emergency or crisis situation. When developing a crisis communications plan, organizations should identify all potential emergency scenarios that could impact business operations or pose a threat to life or safety. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, employee misconduct, death of a company leader, cyber security breaches, or negative stories in the media are just some situations that a crisis communications plan should address.
An essential part of your communications efforts should include the implementation of an effective crisis communication plan – one that ensures a strategic and consistent response to help manage crises quickly and appropriately. Key elements of an effective crisis communications plan are listed below:
- Crisis communications team: A group of employees who will fulfill the roles of collecting relevant information, circulating details and statements, and communicating internally and with the media.
- Crisis communications overview: An outline of how the company will communicate about and address the crisis. It should explain why the plan is necessary and what circumstances warrant setting the plan in motion. It should also detail what steps need to be taken, who is responsible for initiating each step, and what tools will be used to ultimately carry out the plan.
- Emergency contact lists: A list of contact information for all individuals involved in crisis response, local and national government offices, public health departments, police and fire departments, and any emergency assistance agencies that can aid in a crisis situation.
- Internal Communications Strategy: An outline of how the organization will inform employees about a crisis, including what communication platforms will be used and alternatives in the event of these platforms failing. The internal communications strategy should also outline expectations of employees, including any media relations or social media policies.
- External Communications Strategy: An outline of each step the organization will take in order to inform the public of the situation. This should explain which platforms will be used to disseminate information, who will be responsible for publicizing the message, and how the public’s response to the message will be monitored. You may also want to consider media training for any individuals that will act as spokesperson.
- Communication templates: Whether you choose to disseminate information via social media, news release, or email blasts, your crisis communication plan should contain templates with statements that lay out what the situation is, how each stakeholder may be impacted, what the company is doing to remedy the situation. Cater specific statements to each potential crisis situation that could impact your organization. Be sure to frame your messages in a way that demonstrates compassion for those affected and ownership of your company’s role in the situation.
In addition to the development of a crisis communications plan, it’s important for companies to reassess their strategy on a regular basis. The constantly evolving landscape of social media in addition to increasing focus on social activism and corporate social responsibility, companies need to re-evaluate their procedures and update them as necessary. Companies should regularly look for areas where their communication plan is lacking and develop new strategies to address these gaps. It’s important that crisis communications teams think about all potential crisis situations and how the current media environment and political climate may impact how the company responds to the event.
Responding to a crisis takes time and preparation; however, a crisis communications plan is a necessity for any businesses – large or small. Developing a plan for how to prevent, prepare for, and respond to a crisis will help maintain a company’s reputation and ensure its vitality.
The articles in this blog are for informational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations. When making decisions about your financial situation, consult a financial professional for advice. Articles are not regularly updated, and information may become outdated.