How to Create a Crisis Plan
July 25, 2019
Group Gordon’s Nick Bonavolonta explains why every company or organization should have a crisis communications plan and what should go in one.
In the age of trending hashtags and ever-breaking news, it’s never been more important to be ready for a crisis. When reacting to a challenging situation, your chances of mitigating fallout and securing a more favorable outcome greatly increase if you’ve done your homework ahead of time and are ready to act at a moment’s notice. Below are the five critical components of any crisis communications plan:
- Overarching goals. It’s important to establish the high-level objectives and strategies that should apply in all crisis situations. Ask yourself, “What are the most important business priorities and outcomes to keep in mind when assessing a threat?” Having a clear picture of the big picture will enable your team to better put crises in their proper context, remain level-headed, and react appropriately.
- The go-team. The last thing you want when you have to move quickly is to be stuck figuring out who needs a seat at the table and which spokesperson to put forth. Determine in advance the members of your crisis response team and the bench of possible spokespeople. A thorough crisis plan should also include logistical steps, protocols, and contact information for the team.
- Key audiences. As important as knowing who your spokespeople will be is understanding the most important end audiences to reach in a crisis. Rank your target audiences in order of importance and then prioritize the most strategic groups in your response. It’s more important to have a message that resonates with those groups than to try to be everyone’s cup of tea.
- Prime media targets. Create and regularly update comprehensive lists of relevant journalists who cover your industry, noting with whom you have good relationships. Strong media relationships are always beneficial, but they can be particularly valuable when you’re facing a challenging situation.
- Possible scenarios. Some crises are completely unpredictable, but many are foreseeable. Start by brainstorming all potential threats and challenging scenarios that may arise from internal or external sources. Then, develop specific protocols, strategies, and tactics to both preempt and respond to each unique situation. Include in your scenario planning standby statements, key messages for each situation, and tough questions to expect. Though it’s impossible to predict the specifics of every crisis that could occur, successful scenario planning ensures that you will be in a better starting place when faced with likely challenges.
In today’s fast-paced media landscape brands can’t afford to get caught flat-footed. Developing a comprehensive crisis plan with all of the components above is one of the most important investments you can make to prepare your brand – and best-case scenario, you’ll never have to use it.