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Planning For a Crisis
It's not a matter of if your organization will experience a crisis, but when. In the January 2008 "PR Tip of the Month" I discussed the fundamentals of handling media interviews during a crisis. However, preferable communications management is to anticipate emergencies by writing a crisis communications plan. A plan prepares you to address scenarios that, if poorly handled, could lead to media relations disasters damaging your organization's reputation.
What is a Crisis
Anything that creates negative publicity — strikes, employee layoffs, environmental disasters, product recalls, lawsuits, accidents, illegal activity by corporate officers, workplace violence, natural disasters. The list is endless.
Basic Elements Of a Crisis Communications Plan
What to include in your plan depends upon the nature, size and complexity of your organization. Below are common components of crisis communications plans.
- Anticipate crises: Determine what types of crises your organization most likely could experience.
- Create a detailed procedure for contacting whoever must be notified that a serious incident has occurred.
- Designate who will be on the crisis team and assign roles for each member, including who will be in charge and who the spokespersons will be.
- Create a detailed database of the contact information for everyone on the team and for everyone who needs to be notified when an incident occurs.
- Determine how members of the team will communicate and coordinate.
- Develop response strategies for each anticipated type of crises.
- Identify and prioritize key audiences and how you will reach them.
- Outline how messages will be developed and updated during a crisis. Draft potential initial messages.
Additional Resource for Information
Louisiana State University has an excellent outline of how to write a crisis communications plan.