All businesses and organisations, regardless of size, should have a solid crisis management plan in place. Unexpected situations can arise from a variety of factors, including natural disasters, cyberattacks, financial setbacks, product recalls, employee behaviour, or negative publicity. Responding quickly and effectively is crucial to minimise any financial or reputational damage and restore normal operations as soon as possible.
Although smaller operations may not have the same level of resources as larger ones, having a crisis management plan can help them stay prepared and protect their business.
A crisis management plan should outline:
- Roles and responsibilities – Define who does what. Avoiding doubling up on duties ensures responsibilities can’t be misunderstood during a crisis.
- Communication protocols – Who is allowed to communicate with external audiences and what are they allowed to say?
- Contingency plans – what happens if…
- Procedures for handling different types of crises – Managing stolen customer data as a result of a cyberattack will be managed differently to poor employee behaviour.
- Potential crisis scenarios – Scenarios should outline potential issues, responsibilities, courses of action, relevant internal policies, and draft statements for responding to media.
Crisis Communications as part of Crisis Management Plans
Much of crisis management relies on clear, concise communication with stakeholders including media, customers, general public, and the internal team.
A crisis management communications plan should include:
- Key messages which can be used or adapted to respond to media enquiries and general public announcements, as well as owned channels, to ensure messaging consistency
- Draft Q&As for all relevant audiences
- Media interview dos and don’ts as reminders for the organisations’ spokesperson and team
- A timeline of actions to manage the issue
One of the most important things to remember in the middle of a crisis is to not always accept a media request for an interview.
As the official spokesperson, or member of the response team, always ask yourself first, ‘Will my comments compromise my company, staff or stakeholders if they appear in the media tomorrow – even on a background basis?’ If you choose to proceed, allow time for preparation, including potential Q&A rehearsal, and practise the elevator pitch and key messages often. The appointed spokesperson for the organisation should feel confident that their responses are accurate and sound authentic. If in doubt, seek advice from an expert.