It happened. That very thing you talked about, but never thought would actually take place. Or that thing you never thought about that blindsided you at 11:15 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Whether it’s a building fire, employee injury, workplace violence, a legal matter, or viral twitter post: crises are inevitable.
The good is news is that you have a plan. Right? Organizations can always proactively prepare by having a plan in place.
While not all crisis plans are alike, there are key essentials to every effective crisis communications plan.
- Answers when you have no answers. It’s the wee hours of the morning. Something has happened. Seems bad, but you aren’t sure. You’ve only got three texts to go on and you’re headed to the office in your pajamas. Fox News is already calling. You have to be ready. You have to respond. Have a response template ready for those in-between moments.
- Phone numbers. For everyone. You’ll need to reach a lot of stakeholders like employees, media, elected officials, the fire department, your safety lead. Make sure you have after-hours phone numbers for all.
- Prepare your call-answerers! Imagine the leadership team is in the war room and preparing the perfect solutions to your issues. Meanwhile, people are googling your company and calling the mainline where your number one executive assistant is being bombarded with questions he has no answers to or training for.
- Fact sheet to collect facts/information: determine what has happened by immediately identifying as many facts as possible and conveying these immediately to the appropriate member(s) of the Crisis Response Team
- Breaks. Seriously. Plan breaks. Depending on the longevity of your crisis, make sure someone is in charge of ensuring the team is adequately rested so they can perform how you need them to perform.
- Templates. Media templates. Phone scripts. Employee emails. When you’re stressed out, it’s helpful to have guidelines.
- A plan of action to notify media/key stakeholders: There are various audiences outside your organization who will require timely and relevant updates throughout the incident. Identify who they are, list contact information, and outline a plan for distributing that information, such as email, phone call, social media.
- FAQ sheet: while you can’t prepare for every crisis, it is helpful to develop a FAQ sheet with drafted responses to likely questions from media, employees and the public.
- Sandwiches. Perhaps you’re not the type to miss a meal; but when you’re fielding calls from media, team members and family members, it’s easy to forget about dinner. Make sure you plan for your team’s nutrition, so no one faints during your time of need.
- Evaluate & Modify. Always plan to review the plan after a crisis – and make modifications. Make sure to review it often with your team and make updates as appropriate. It is important to have your team become familiar with the plan and be able to access it easily. And of course, it is important to keep your PR agency up-to-date on any changes to your plan, so they are prepared to support your team.