As a new year begins, it’s a good time to ask whether your organization is prepared for a crisis. While no one ever wants to deal with crises, they happen. And, having a solid crisis communications plan can make all the difference in the world in helping your organization effectively navigate a crisis situation, both internally and externally.
Creating a crisis communications plan may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Before you hit the panic button, consider these steps from crisis and reputation management experts at Linhart Public Relations:
The first step is determining whether your organization already has a crisis plan in place. Comprehensive crisis plans typically include things like crisis scenarios, emergency contact information, communications flowcharts, sample messaging documents and clearly designated roles and responsibilities.
If the answer to this first question is yes, the next step is revisiting the plan and determining what, if any, adjustments need to be made to make it as relevant and useful as possible. For example, are there crisis scenarios in the plan that can be removed or replaced to better reflect your organization’s situation or marketplace challenges? Are you on new social channels since the last time the plan was updated – or should you be to ensure you’re prepared to react to crises on all relevant channels? Does everyone who should have the plan have a copy of the plan and understand his or her role? Is contact information up-to-date, including mobile and/or home phones? These questions likely only scratch the surface, but the point is that things change in an organization and the ways in which its stakeholders communicate, and those changes need to be taken into account in your crisis plan.
Something else to consider is whether there’s been a recent crisis simulation using the plan? Not only do these types of exercises get your organization practiced in responding to an emergency, but they can be useful in identifying holes in your crisis plans and processes.
And, if you don’t have a crisis plan in place, don’t worry! In fact, creating a crisis plan from scratch can be a beneficial exercise for your organization and its leaders. It allows you to craft the plan in a format and with content that will be most meaningful and user-friendly for your organization. It also gets senior leadership involved in understanding the substantial benefits of having a crisis plan – and potential negative impacts of not having one.
The other good news is there are resources to help you. A third-party expert like a public relations or crisis management firm can help your organization get to a place where you feel well prepared to handle any crisis that may come your way.
At the end of the day (or the beginning of the year, as you have it), the key takeaway is that making the time to ensure you have a solid crisis communications plan in place will always be worth the investment. When crises hit – and they always do – one of the biggest factors that can determine the impact on your organization’s reputation is the state of your crisis plan. Is this insight earthshattering? Probably not, but a crisis without a crisis plan certainly has the ability to be!