Crisis Plan Development

Photo by Artur Czachowski via Flickr 

Photo by Artur Czachowski via Flickr

GFM utilizes a four-step process to develop comprehensive crisis communication and issues management plans:

  1. Discovery and planning
  2. Plan development
  3. Testing and refinement
  4. Evolution, revisions and lessons learned

Discovery and planning

Simply put, due diligence matters, especially in handling a crisis. Before any key meetings are conducted, GFM works with clients to obtain relevant documents, processes and background information, plus additional case background.

A high-level traditional and social media audit of the client’s brand and industry is also vital to the process, so it’s clear where conversations and coverage exist, who’s involved and qualitatively, what they’re saying in those conversations. This process is invaluable in assessing potential risks.

Then comes a longer-format strategic planning meeting with appropriate client team members, to be sure everyone’s on the same page about processes and procedures, strategies, deliverables and timeline.

Plan development

Upon agreeing to the timeline and deliverables we then develop and present a comprehensive crisis communication/issues management plan for review and editing by your team. The plan will include, but is not limited to:

  • Objectives and plan determinations
  • Response criteria/risk assessment chart
  • Response process and timing
  • Messaging related to specific crisis and issues management scenarios
  • Monitoring recommendations
  • Crisis/issues management checklist

Once an initial plan is finalized, GFM meets with appropriate client representatives to formally review and discuss our recommendations. Once we have gathered input, we revise the plan accordingly and return it to you for additional feedback. While such a process has proven effective, it’s flexible enough to be adjusted to accommodate the timing, resource and budgetary parameters of each client.

Testing and refinement

Once the crisis/issues management plan is finalized, the next step is a half- or full-day crisis plan tabletop exercise. This is where GFM tests and analyzes your responses to the following:

  • The most likely scenarios, or scenarios of most interest
  • Monitoring, reporting and internal communication channel processes
  • Message inclusion and accuracy
  • Effectiveness of communication channels and distribution methods
  • Responsiveness/timeliness of proactive and reactive communications and responses
  • Reporting and metrics/measurement

Here’s another area where GFM’s Online War Room® social media crisis simulator provides great value This password-protected, proprietary tool gives GFM clients a chance to practice social media conversations and responses in real time, under real-life circumstances, and to get expert coaching, in a private, secure setting. Whether it involves a disgruntled employee, angry customer or behind-the-scenes issue that goes public, the Online War Room provides a forum to work through potential problems so you’re ready, just in case they become real problems.

Evolution, revisions and lessons learned

The outcome of the tabletop testing exercise informs the next step of the process, where GFM revisits the crisis communication/issues management plan and revises it as necessary. A final document then is delivered, ready to use if the need arises.

Final does not mean inflexible. Indeed, GFM recommends that clients revisit the plan at least twice each year to ensure it’s current and reflects any new organizational or procedural developments.

To augment the plan, GFM offers a separate message training session for relevant client team members to ensure everybody’s clear on messaging, roles and protocol. Role-playing and on-camera practice interviews/conversations are key during these training sessions.