Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Having recently posted a source for CCP templates and a few terrific ideas, I also wanted to post a much more comprehensive list of to-do's for all you, Do It Yourselfers for a customized Crisis Communication Plan of your very own.
Here is a set of recommended steps for the development of CCP for your organization:
1. Identify the goal of the plan. Before you begin, your team should determine what the objective of the plan is. It can be as simple as: "This plan creates a structure for communicating with internal and external stakeholders, in the event of a crisis that affects the reputation or normal business functions of the organization." This ensures every aspect of your plan aligns with this common goal.
2. Identify stakeholders. When writing the plan, it's important to know who the plan is designed for. Outline a list of all stakeholders you'd want to keep informed about the crisis. This list probably includes employees, customers and users, partners, investors, media outlets, the government, and the general public. The latter likely includes social media followers or people located nearby in the event of a location-based crisis. You should also add all necessary contact information for each of these groups in your plan.
3. Create a hierarchy for sharing information on the crisis. The person or team that reports a crisis doesn't always handle crisis communications. So, a part of the plan should be dedicated to forming a hierarchy outlining how information should be shared within the company. That way, no matter who notices the crisis emerging, they'll know who to go to first. This order depends on the structure of your team. The first step may be to notify the CEO or president of the organization, followed by the head of communications or public relations. The plan should also constitute what information should immediately be disclosed to these parties. This might include known details about the crisis, the source of the incident, and any existing backlash
4. Assign people to create fact sheets. Your plan should detail which people on the team are in charge of creating fact sheets about the crisis. Fact sheets are lists of known facts pertaining to the crisis. They prevent rumors or misinterpretations from spreading to media outlets. Additionally, you should set a deadline for when these fact sheets will be prepared. Depending on the crisis, you may need them within 24 hours, six hours, or even 30 minutes.
5. Identify and assess example crisis scenarios. When a crisis does happen, you will probably feel overwhelmed. Your mind will race and you will feel pressured to respond to phone calls, social media mentions, and media inquiries. This is why it's best to outline common scenarios in advance. Some types of crises that may affect your organization are natural disasters, disruptions in normal business functions, customer or employee injuries, and product tampering.
6. Identify and answer common questions. During any crisis -- no matter how big or small -- people are going to ask questions. Whether they are customer advocates or reporters, the public will want to uncover the truth. After all, in most cases, companies are seen as guilty until proven innocent. Crisis communication plans can help you identify and answer questions that you can expect to be asked during your crisis scenarios.
7. Identify potential risks. No matter how well thought-out your crisis communication plan is, there are always going to be pros and cons. Naturally, you'll stick with the plan that maximizes benefits while minimizing costs. However, the costs are still important to consider. Under each plan, you should document the potential risks you'll face. That way, if the plan does backfire, you won't be caught off guard. You will have prepared yourself and laid out steps for recuperating from these additional losses.
8. Create guidelines specific to social media. Proactive communication is essential during a crisis. To offer as much transparency as possible, teams should focus on preparing press materials and sharing information about the crisis. The more information you retain, the more the public will want to know what you're hiding. Reactive communication is just as important. It's vital that team members are focused on social monitoring during a time of crisis. Any negative social media mentions should be dealt with immediately and with consistency. There should be sections of your plan dedicated solely to social media crisis management.
And there you go– a pretty easy to follow set of steps that you can use when you're ready to tackle your own crisis communication plan. Many will tell you that taking the time to create such a plan was some of the most valuable time they have ever dedicated to a project. Hopefully, this will also be your experience.