Crisis communication planning – what it is and why it really matters
If something unfavourable were to happen today, within your core business, what’s the first thing you would do?
- Put your ‘Out of Office’ on?
- Consult your crisis management plan?
If you’ve answered ‘A’, ‘B’ or, ‘What is a crisis management plan?’ Then read on.
- Start at the beginning
You thought we were going to suggest making a crisis communication plan first? There are things you can and should do, even before that. Are your corporate vision, mission and values firmed up and well understood throughout your organisation? If you know what your brand values are and what you stand for, you’re already in much better shape to deal with any potential crisis should it occur.
Next, ask yourself if your organisational processes and procedures are documented, understood and being implemented. There’s no better way to demonstrate they aren’t than by having a crisis.
The next step on from formalising your brand values and tightening up your processes, is to pre-prepare messaging based on your values and unique selling points. If you are the best, how are you best and how can you prove it? If you specialise in a certain area of business, who is your competition and why should a potential customer choose you over them? If you sell yourself on certain credentials, for example being green, sustainability or carbon neutrality, make sure you can prove it!
See this vision, mission and values statement from Coca Cola a masterclass in getting to the point of brand values to inform meaningful messaging.
- Make a plan
Sounds simple, but have you ever sat down and identified the types of crises your organisation could potentially face? A good crisis communications plan should cover all the possible, different scenarios and once you’ve identified potential risks, categorise them into minor or major and create plans for each situation.
Once you have your minor and major scenarios sorted, identify your spokespeople, make sure they have access to the latest messaging for their areas of risk and if they’re not media trained already, get them media trained! Media training isn’t rocket science, but you don’t want to be in the middle of a crisis before realising that none of your spokespeople know how to interact with reporters, journalists and other members of the wider media.
See this concise guide we particularly like on Huffington Post: 5 Reasons why you need to get media training
- Consider your target audiences
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about a crisis communication plan as being all about managing the media. The media may play a role in your crisis communication planning, but there will be many other groups of stakeholders who will be affected by any potential crisis: employees, customers, investors, volunteers etc.
Message consistency is key when it comes to crisis management, but you may also want to consider your delivery mechanisms, channels and spokespeople choices when it comes to managing your wider stakeholder groups.
See this guide we like from Cision: 8 Steps to Create the Ultimate Crisis Communication Plan
- Manage your social media channels
As part of crisis planning, it’s essential that organisations already understand what social media channels particular groups of stakeholders engage with most, and tailor messaging appropriately. Wherever possible, drive stakeholders via social media channels to the news area of you main website so you can have version control over messaging, and when it comes to ‘instant’ channels like Twitter and Instagram, there’s arguably no such thing as too much information – but just make sure it’s given in a co-ordinated, strategic way and is based on pre-prepared messaging!
We like this guide from Actuate Digital Solutions How to Integrate Social Media Into Your Crisis Communication Plan
- Benchmark the crisis
If the worst should happen, make sure you are measuring the actual scale and impact of your crisis. Social media and web analytics will make it possible for you to understand the online reach of the crisis fairly easily. But as part of your pre-planning, consider some company opinion research or at the very least an annual customer survey so that you have some real qualitative data ahead of any crisis to measure impact against.
Lastly, make sure you feed your crisis data into your ongoing crisis communication planning so you’re ready, should there be a next time!
We really like this blog from Trendkite Public Relations Crisis Measurement – How to Assess Your Performance
Dragonfly PR specialises in creative PR and social media campaigns for the construction and manufacturing sectors.
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