Why It’s Important to Have a Crisis Communications Plan
Imagine that it’s after business hours and you’re asleep in bed. Suddenly, your phone begins to ring and when you answer it, your employee informs you that some flooding has caused your company to suffer losses. The media is at your offices and onsite employees are talking with them. If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. Any business large or small can be affected by a financial issue, fraud, harassment, an accident, cyberattack, customer service concern or any other form of crisis. When a crisis happens, having a plan to effectively communicate with clients and customers, employees and the media will help ensure you can recover efficiently and without impacting relationships with your key stakeholders.
How do you build a crisis communications plan? First, you identify all the most likely types of crises that could affect your business. This includes crises that are financial, natural, organizational, or technological in nature. You will need to outline all the stakeholders that would be impacted by each crisis like first responders, clients, customers, employees, family members, media, the community, any regulatory or government officials and of course, all social media audiences.
Your plan should include an established communications “tree” with significant contact names, phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts. Define your crisis team and their roles and responsibilities; then identify the person who will serve as the company spokesperson when a crisis occurs. With the crisis scenarios you have included in your plan you will draft statements, key messages, talking points, and social media posts that can be used immediately in the event of a crisis. From there, you’ll need to train everyone who needs to be familiar with your plans and then revisit and update these plans regularly and when necessary.
Developing a communications plan can be valuable in other ways. A great plan also helps determine how teams are structured, leads to materials being proactively created and lessens the amount of time it takes to respond if a crisis occurs, protects the well-being of the company and employees, and can even improve your standing with your key stakeholders and audiences when implemented properly. For example, Cottonelle delivered a message to ease consumer concerns and discourage panic buying in response to people hoarding product during the pandemic. The brand encouraged people to “Stock up on generosity” and launched a campaign called #ShareASquare (AMA), which involved a partnership with and $100,000 donation to United Way. This was a great way for Cottonelle to address consumers’ concerns and take accountability at a time when the public was feeling most vulnerable.
For businesses large or small, developing a crisis communications plan will prepare you for anything you may be faced with in the future, and it can even create opportunities for your company down the road. Our experienced team of PR and crisis management professionals can assist you with developing a robust crisis communications plan that makes the most impact if or when it needs to be implemented. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.