Crisis Communication Plan: How To Plan For a Crisis

Photo courtesy Orange County Archives via Flickr

Photo courtesy Orange County Archives via Flickr

As communicators with nearly 20 years of experience each, the team at GFM has seen almost every kind of communications crisis out there. From crises you can plan for – such as announcing a bankruptcy filing – to those you can’t see coming – like a natural disaster forcing a temporary business closure – there’s one common thread: having a tested crisis communications plan in place makes all the difference.

Whether you’re drafting your very first crisis plan or refreshing an old version, here are some tips for making sure your plan is comprehensive:

  1. Identify your response team. When the proverbial poo hits the fan, who needs to join you at the table to assess the situation and help gather the facts so you can start crafting your response? Make sure you have the team identified and that you’ve compiled and distributed every which way you can possibly reach them (mobile phone, home phone, work and personal emails).
  2. Prepare for volume. Depending on the nature of your crisis, you might experience an incredible influx of media inquiries, calls from customers, or requests from the general public. Having a designated phone line or email where you can direct inquiries and developing a dark website with a form ready to handle inquiries or provide information could be key – and preparing that all in advance so all you need to do is customize for the situation will be priceless.
  3. Review access to your social media properties. As a best practice, you shouldn’t have more than a few trusted team members or agency partners with access to your various social media properties. However, it’s also a best practice to make sure you’re diversified enough that if your social media manager is away on vacation when a crisis hits, someone else with necessary access and passwords knows how to steer the social media ship.
  4. Revisit, revise and refresh! Your crisis plan is only as good as the latest version, so take a minute to think. Has your team changed since the last version? Have you moved offices? Have you added locations or products? Are there new policies in place or new partners or regulatory agencies you need to consider in your response? A few years ago social media wasn’t a consideration for crisis plans – yet today many crises start there. Take a few minutes to revisit, revise and refresh your plan – you’ll be glad you did when a crisis hits!
  5. Practice makes perfect. Whether it’s a real tabletop exercise complete with mock scenarios and time limitations, or simply sitting down for coffee with everyone on your crisis response team (see No.1), we encourage you to put your crisis plan to the test as best you can before you need it in real time. What’s more – schedule time after a crisis to review what went right, where you can improve, and make updates to the plan.

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