Do you have a crisis communications plan for your company or business? I’m frequently surprised by the amount of people who tell me that they don’t have a plan in place for their small businesses, and big businesses, in the case of an emergency. Many rely on institutional knowledge to determine what needs to be done when an incident, of whatever magnitude, happens. That’s a very imprecise way to operate, especially in a moment of crisis.
I’ve been revisiting the topic of crisis communications lately, which has prompted a lot of notes and ideas for posts. This is the first, addressing the basics of what should be in your plan. Your plan should include:
Who is in charge?
The crisis communications plan should name the person in charge who is going to make decisions for your business or organization. This might be a position listing (i.e., president, director, shift manager or manager in charge) or actually identifying the person by name.
The plan should also include a backup name to identify who is in charge if the first person listed cannot be contacted.
How do I contact the person in charge?
The plan should include all relevant contact numbers and digital addresses for the people who need to be contacted. Be sure that personal information is included, including home phone and personal cell phone numbers.
Who needs to be contacted and in what order?
The plan needs to include the names of everyone inside the organization who must be contacted, when they need to be contacted, in what order, and their contact information.
What’s the contact strategy? i.e., do you need to leave messages and move on to the next person in the list or do you need to leave a message and keep trying the numbers until you manage to communicate directly with the person listed?
You need a similar list for people outside the organization: who needs to be contacted, when they need to be contacted, in what order, and their contact information.
Who speaks on behalf of your company?
The plan needs to name the designated spokesperson to speak for your company or organization. The spokesperson is usually the public relations professional. It’s important that the plan also includes a chain of command establishing that all information, responses and facts be released through one person or one source; this source will usually be the designated spokesperson.
However, if the incident happens in the field, someone may need to be on hand in the field to address media and community questions before the designated spokesperson can arrive. Media training will be an essential component of your crisis communications plan if you need to designate on site spokespeople in your plan.
This is just the beginning
Of course, every crisis communications plan is going to be a little bit different (or a lot) depending on what your business actually is and what the incident may be, but this will get you started.
— Written by: Sandra Fernandez