A crisis is defined as any situation that threatens the reputation or integrity of a business, professional, elected official, organization, or some other type of entity. The best way to defend against this type of situation is by acting proactively and developing a meaningful, comprehensive crisis management plan. There are eight key steps that are vital to a comprehensive crisis communication plan.
The crisis communication plan seems optional for any business. However, it is important and should be developed even if there are no perspectives for the brand to have any kind of crisis in its existence. But let’s see more.
8 Steps to Build Up a Crisis Communication Plan
1. Designating a Crisis Management Team
A crisis management plan must be more than merely words on paper. The plan needs to include the designation and development of a crisis management team.
At the heart of the designation and development of a crisis management team is determining:
- Who will be on the team;
- The roles and responsibilities of each team member;
- Who will be serve as the principal spokesperson in the event of a crisis.
The names of each team member and their respective roles needs to spelled out within the written crisis management plan itself. In addition, the designation of the principal spokesperson in the event of a crisis needs to be delineated as well.
The plan should also include the manner in which the crisis management team will be called together in the event of a crisis. For example, the plan should include the manner in which contact will be made and when, where, and how the team initially will assemble in the aftermath of a crisis. This is also the moment when you should consider focusing on your team’s creative problem solving skills.
2. Selecting the Proper Designated Spokesperson
As noted previously, a key step in mastering a crisis communication plan is selecting and preparing the proper designated spokesperson in the event of a crisis. The designated spokesperson is not necessarily the chief member of the management team. Rather, when it comes to a crisis communication plan, the designated spokesperson must be a person who is at ease and familiar with making public statements and working with the media.
In addition, the designated spokesperson must also be knowledgeable about the business or organization and highly capable of operating in a high-stress situation.
3. Positioning Following a Crisis
The next key step to mastering a crisis communication plan is what is known in the realm of communications, media, and public relations as positioning. Positioning involves understanding the nature of the crisis from different perspectives. This includes understanding the crisis as a stakeholder, as a member of the media, and as a member of the general public.
Examples of areas that are considered as part of positioning and a crisis management plan include human error, unauthorized procedure, clerical error, inadequate supervision, inadequate quality control, misuse of confidential information, errors in judgment, or inadequate standard operating procedures.
4. Rehearsing a Crisis Management Plan
While many businesses, organizations, individuals, and other entities develop a crisis communication plan, they fail to ever rehearse the elements of the plan. A key step to mastering a crisis communication plan is rehearsing its components. The rehearsing needs to occur more than one time, and should be planned on a recurring basis.
When it comes to rehearsing a crisis management plan, the rehearsals should anticipate different types of scenarios. While no future crisis can ever be perfectly anticipated, the fact is that some general parameters can be envisioned for different types of crises.
5. Prepared Statements are Crucial
Another key element of an overall crisis communication plan is preparing an array of different types of statements to be released when a crisis occurs. Although it is not possible to envision each and every type of crisis, many general types of crises can be anticipated. Consequently, generalized prepared statements can be made.
The benefit of preparing statements renders it easier and smoother to respond at the time of a crisis. Altering an existing statement is a far easier process than trying to develop a statement in the midst of a crisis.
6. Subsidiary Speakers and Information Specialists
As noted previously, selecting a designated, primary spokesperson is a key element of a crisis communication plan. With that said, in the event of most types of crises, different subsidiary speakers are likely to be necessary. For example, if a crisis involves some sort of technical issue or matter, have a subsidiary speaker on the dock can be invaluable when it comes to addressing and even containing a crisis.
The list of subsidiary speakers needs to be reviewed with regularity to ensure that it remains topical and that the individuals on it remain available in the event of a crisis or emergency. Being diligent about updating the list of subsidiary speakers is crucial as part of developing and maintaining a comprehensive crisis communication plan.
7. How to Handle Media Interview
Oftentimes, the principals of a business or organization do not necessarily have extensive experience when it comes to dealing with the media. Therefore, part of a crisis communication plan can be training key personnel in working with the media in the time of a crisis or emergency.
The crisis communication plan itself can set forth specific protocols in regard to the handling of the media in the event of a crisis or emergency. The protocols need to be specific. The reality is that in the absence of these types of well-developed protocols on how to handle a media interview in a time of crisis, media exchanges can fairly readily go off the proverbial rails.
8. Crisis Communication Plan Reevaluation Protocols
Once a crisis communication plan initially is developed, it cannot be considered a static document. Rather, because the circumstances of a business, organization, individual, or other type of entity changes over time, a crisis communication plan must be subject to reevaluation and change.
Oftentimes a business or organization will schedule specific time frames or milestones that will trigger an internal reevaluation of a crisis communication plan. For example, a crisis communication plan might be reevaluated annually. In the alternative, certain events in the life of a business or organization might trigger a reevaluation of a crisis communication plan.
By following these key steps or tactics, a business, organization, individual, or other entity will be in the best position to have a viable, effective crisis communication plan. The crisis communication plan will be able to serve the objectives of a business or organization in the event of a crisis or emergency situation.
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