Crisis Communications Planning
The time to create a Crisis Communications Plan is before you need it, not in the height of a crisis. Every critical person in your company and all of the C-suite should have a copy, have reviewed it at least once in the last six months, and feel free to offer suggestions to improve upon it as time goes on.
Here are five essentials of a good Crisis Communications Plan:
1. Keep it brief. It does not need to cover off every possible crisis but be a manageable, readily accessible and actionable document that gives you strategies and concrete plans for handling likely types of scenarios your company might encounter, including, such as injury of a customer, death of a key employee, charges against an executive, legal challenge, accusations of impropriety, product tampering, and illness or death of customer amongst a whole host of other possibilities.
2. Nurture your relationships. In a time of crisis, you will need to reach out to key people who can help you figure out what you’re up against and mitigate the damage. Figure out who you friendlies are, including community leaders, fans in the media and influential bloggers who might help you tell your side of the story. Don’t just reach out only when you need something. It’s ill-mannered, and you’ll turn off the very people you may need in your corner in times of trouble.
3. Be proactive. Break bad news yourself so you can ensure your side of the story is heard. Waiting for someone else to tell it means you will only be responding and not able to contextualize the issue in the most helpful way. Reach out to the media and make your website a destination by updating it with the information the media and the public want, including the bad news.
4. Be truthful. It is imperative the public trust that you are doing everything in your power to make the situation right and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. If you are caught in a lie or have bent the truth, your credibility will be shot. And you won’t have a leg to stand on.
5. Ready your CEO in advance. When something goes terribly wrong, people want to hear from the person in charge. Make sure the CEO is media trained and able to explain the situation and the company’s side of the story simply, with humility and authenticity. Arrogance and self interest will only make the problem worse.
Your Crisis Communications Plan should be critically reviewed frequently and never considered to be set in stone. Your list of friendlies, the most likely possible threats, and channels to get your side of the story out should be revised as needed and as you go to ensure that should a crisis strike, your company is ready to face it.