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Don’t Panic, Be Prepared with Crisis Communication Planning

If we have learned anything in the past two years, it’s that things can and do go wrong that can dramatically affect business. It’s not pessimistic to prepare for a crisis – it’s simply realistic. Putting together a plan to disseminate information to address a crisis that impacts customers and/or reputation is prudent for every business.

In today’s world, “news” travels fast so it’s more important than ever to be prepared to address it. While crisis communication is generally reactive, it helps to have a crisis communication plan in place to make the process easier for team members.

Businesses can face several types of crises:

  • Personnel – Changes to staff that may affect operations or reputation such as employee furloughs or layoffs.
  • Organizational – A statement and/or apology for misconduct, wrongdoing or product issues.
  • Technological – Technological failures that result in outages, data theft or breach.
  • Natural – Natural crisis that necessitates changes such as safety precautions during a public health crisis or weather-related shutdowns.

Crisis Communication Preparation

Choose a Team

Decide who in executive management or ownership should be included in the crisis communications team. Decide the order of who will be notified in a crisis situation and the best form of communication that will be used to work together internally.

Assign a spokesperson to speak on the brand/company behalf. The CEO, company executive or whoever is best suited to represent the company should be chosen in advance of an emergency so there is clear direction on who is authorized to speak publicly. It’s important to choose a good communicator as their actions will influence how customers and/or employees react to the situation. It is critical that emergencies or mistakes appear manageable and under control.

Develop Standard Messaging

Set up a basic template that uses established positioning so that correct titles, names and standard industry terms are ready. The company boiler plate information should be included as well. It will be much easier to create a document under crisis circumstances if approved language is already prepared.

Prepare Statement in Crisis

Before the spokesperson addresses any parties, a written statement Including actionable steps that are being taken should be prepared using the pre-planned messaging template. The crisis team should approve the language and if legal matters are at issue, it’s very important for legal advisors to weigh in and give the final clearance for statements.

Respond on Social Media

Social media is an effective marketing tool that allows companies to easily reach customers and other stakeholders, so it can’t be ignored when working through a crisis. Approved written statements should be shared on social media. Also, the crisis communications team needs to approve any social media posts or responses on social media platforms. Other employees should be instructed not to comment or post on social media platforms regarding the business during crisis management without management consent.

Don’t Forget Pending Communications

Normal communications such as sales emails, advertisements and preplanned social media posts should be halted until the crisis communications team can review and make sure they are appropriate to send under current circumstances. Sending a scheduled sales email or cheerful social post can appear very tone deaf during a crisis.

A Little Prep Goes a Long Way

Taking these simple steps in advance can prevent a panic response that could result in costly business mistakes. Our MMC clients invest time and money to have clear communications with clients and prospects, and there is no more important time to be clear and effective than during a challenging situation.

This post is courtesy of MMC Public Relations Manager Malinda Lackey

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