Margaret McGann

Crisis Communications: preparation is key

In crisis communications, monitoring, planning, research, social media, strategy, writing on June 14, 2010 at 9:12 am

As a communicator you can be assured the organization or industry you work in will sooner or later face a crisis. And whether it is a small or large crisis you should always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

The most important part of your preparation is creating a rock solid comprehensive crisis communications plan.  This will take time, research and effort to put together but it’ll be a lifesaver in mitigating the effects of a crisis.

There are three main things you should keep in mind when preparing your plan:

  1. Each industry has specific types of crises that can impact it
  2. The majority of crises happen at night, on the weekend or during holidays
  3. Each crisis has three phases — preparation, response and recovery

Here are twenty tips to make sure you are prepared when a crisis hits:

  1. Put a system in place to monitor any developments that could turn into an issue or crisis
  2. Determine crisis communications resources
  3. Determine who will be members of your crisis response team
  4. Compile, laminate and distribute contact information for all senior managers and key personnel including mobile numbers, land lines (home and cottage), pagers, personal email addresses, social media accounts
  5. Secure an alternative site for senior management and key staff to conduct business during a crisis   
  6. Set-up a war room or crisis centre
  7. Develop a “codeword” that your response team members will recognize as the signal a crisis has hit and for emergency meetings at a predetermined location (i.e., the war room)
  8. Assign roles and responsibilities to management and staff members
  9. Decide who will be your spokespeople and who will speak to different aspects of the crisis at different stages
  10. Ensure all staff know only the designated spokespeople are to speak to the media
  11. Compile and prioritize databases of media, business/government leaders, regulators, partners, suppliers, key stakeholders, media, industry/sector experts and identify gaps and overlaps
  12. Nurture relationships with targeted media
  13. Assign managers to hold daily staff briefings
  14. Senior management to host daily media briefings
  15. Acquire domain names for the internet, social media (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, blogs)
  16. Secure 1-800 number(s) for 24-hour hotline(s)
  17. Develop “dark website/microsite(s)” and populate with background info (i.e., company history, bios, holding statements, etc.)
  18. Develop notification systems for informing internal and external audiences ­— blast e-mails and tweets, Facebook updates
  19. Liaise with federal/provincial or state/municipal and world agencies (if applicable)
  20. Test the plan to identify strengths and weaknesses, test it again and then test it again

Depending on your crisis you will activate some or all of these steps.

Is there anything else you think should be added to this list?

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