Five Questions to Ask About Your Crisis Communications Plan

Kudos on having a plan for how your organization would respond to a crisis that poses the threat of disrupting your business. Solid crisis communication is rooted in competent communication every day and businesses and organizations with a plan are better suited to respond when things heat up.

Crisis communication planning could be the difference between if your business weathers a PR storm or if it doesn’t. Don’t skimp on planning for your future. The Covalent Team has the expertise to help you plan strategically for the future. To get started, review these five questions to help you decide how strong your plan is.

Is your crisis communications plan written down?
No? Then you don’t have one. While we’d all like to believe that we can keep plans in our heads, in reality, if a plan isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. And, even if you’ve got a killer memory, relying on it in the middle of a stressful time for your organization could affect your decision making processes and, frankly, is a waste of your time.

Take some time during “peacetime” to write down how you and your team will communicate internally and externally during a crisis. Outline roles and responsibilities, key partners and stakeholders. Brainstorm about what constitutes a crisis for your organization. If you don’t know where to start, consider bringing in a third party to help. Planning is an investment in the future of your organization and could make both you and your employees safer.

When’s the last time you updated your crisis communications plan?
If the answer is “more than a year ago,” then your plan is out-of-date. Most organizations should revisit their plans at least once a year to account for staff turnover and to make sure plans include best practices, new advancements in communications and the best strategy you can come up with.

Simple things, like having updated contact information for employees and current information about your communication assets, will make your life infinitely easier when crunch time comes.

How do you define what constitutes a crisis for your organization?
You can usually divide crises into two categories – things that are within your control (fallout caused by a business decision) and things that are not (natural disasters, poor behavior of a key staff member, market forces). There can be some overlap: a data breach could be both the fault of an external group and also the result of a poor business decision, for example.

While listing out all of the bad things that could happen to your organization seems sadistic, brainstorming about possible negatives is an exercise that will keep your team sharp and help you identify potential areas of need for your business.

Have you recently made major business changes, like adding a group of staff members, locations or other business assets?
Whenever your organization makes major structural changes, you should revisit your crisis communications plan. Adding a new location or line of business could open your business up to a different risk not imagined in your original crisis communications plan. And adding a new division of staff members could present new internal communications challenges.

A lot of things need to be reviewed as an organization grows. Make it habit to review communications protocols as you do things like review liability coverage.

Do your employees and key partners know what your crisis plan is?
A plan is essentially worthless if no one knows about it. Review your crisis communications strategies and plans with staff people who will be involved and also explain to all of your employees how they will get information from you in a crisis. Additionally, if you have partners that play a vital role in your work, consider which aspects of your plans affect them and discuss accordingly.

Professional crisis managers and communicators participate in “tabletop” exercises to practice their plans. While it can seem like overkill, bringing key players together occasionally to talk through scenarios and even write draft messaging is a good way to remind everyone of their roles and responsibilities and to find holes in your planning.

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