The Best Time to Craft Your Crisis Communication Plan is When You Don’t Need One

by Tanya Amyote

Business owners can find themselves and their firms at the center of a crisis unexpectedly or as the result of a planned and deliberate operational change.

Regardless of the catalyst, there can be no better or more swift reaction than one that is carefully and intentionally crafted to mitigate a negative outcome or perception, as opposed to one created while trying to stay afloat.

A business crisis can come in many forms, but a few commonly requiring a crisis communication plan are:

  • A natural disaster or world event, such as the pandemic
  • A financial or operational event, such as filing for bankruptcy, closing locations, reductions to your workforce or changes in ownership through a merger or acquisition
  • A personnel or human resources issue, such as workplace misconduct or an incident requiring a severing of ties with an employee or stakeholder
  • A technological or service outage or anything that would affect business continuity and/or the delivery of your company’s services to your clients.

Schools conduct fire drills to ensure teachers, staff and students know what to do in case of an emergency. Trying to think clearly and come up with and implement an effective exit plan while flames are licking at your heels is a recipe for disaster. So, before the sirens start blaring for your business, here are some steps to take to make sure everyone gets out safely:

  1. Identify your company’s Crisis Response Team. Who is responsible for each phase of your crisis communication plan? Create a call tree or text chain including all key players. In a typical call tree, Person A will contact Persons B, C and D, who will each contact others, until all relevant parties have been reached. This enables quick dissemination of information while also keeping communication lines open.
  2. Identify a spokesperson. Who is calm under pressure and can speak to the media on behalf of the company?
  3. Prepare holding statements: generic responses for the spokesperson to deliver immediately. Crafting your comprehensive communications plan will take more time and thought, but a holding statement can buy you valuable time while you assess the situation and get your bearings. Your holding statements should be clear, concise and honest.
  4. Develop a Q&A. Having bought some time with your holding statement, you can anticipate and craft responses to the questions your audience might have. Again, you must ensure your story is clear, concise, honest and consistent for all audiences including staff, clients and the public.
  5. Monitor results. You need to know everything that is being said about your organization. The use of a media monitoring tool can alert you to coverage of your company – whether good or bad. This tool can also help your team measure the tone of the response should a crisis communication plan be implemented.

Crafting a comprehensive crisis communication plan takes time and clarity of thought. The best time to do it is now.

About the Author

Tanya Amyote joined the Edge team in 2016, as marketing assistant, Excel guru, and token Canadian.

When not solving the world’s pivot table problems, Tanya is an avid reader, fountain pen user, and advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion.

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