Crises happen every day, sometimes we can prevent them from happening and other times we cannot, but one thing is for sure – we can prepare for them.
The biggest mistake anyone can make is thinking that nothing “bad” will happen to them. This thinking is especially detrimental to businesses because misjudgment of situations ultimately put the business at risk. For that reason, it is important for businesses to understand how to manage these emergencies by developing crisis communication plans.
What exactly is a crisis?
In business, a crisis is a situation that threatens the public safety, finances, and reputation of an organization, its industry, and most importantly, its internal and external stakeholders.
There are myriad types of crises that can occur which range from technological and confrontational to bankruptcy, and natural disasters. As seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, these emergencies can occur without warning and because of this, it is important to take control of the situation and maintain organizational and public communications.
When you think of crisis communication you may only be thinking of public relations, but that is incorrect. Emergencies not only affect the public, they affect everyone within the company. This means everyone from the custodial staff to the CEO must be informed on what to do.
What can you do to prepare for crises?
Communication Studies Program Coordinator, Lee Krahenbuhl says, “Every company has or should have a crisis communication plan so that [they] can come out in front of the public or their company and know what to say when something disastrous happens.” In other words, when push comes to shove, you should have a well-formulated plan to communicate effectively.
Crisis communication plans act as blueprints for the company in times of crisis so that they can respond immediately. It is an emergency plan that includes steps of communication and future prevention to help prepare and navigate through unexpected crises. So what are the first steps you should take in developing a crisis communication plan? First, you should answer the following questions:
· What type of crisis do I want to prepare for?
· Who are the audiences I wish to communicate with during this crisis?
· What is my message to each of these audiences in reaction to the crisis?
· What are the internal expectations and responsibilities of my employees?
Answering these prerequisite questions will then help you develop the top five components of your communication plan. Those top five components are:
- Determine a Spokesperson
Determine whom would effectively represent your company and train them to communicate across multiple media platforms.
- Identify your crisis communications team
Spokespersons are important, but the team who makes major decisions in times of the crisis must be determined. Assign individual responsibilities to team members. Depending on the crisis, teams typically consist of the CEO, chief advisers, legal experts, and PR professionals.
- Develop your message
What is your message or response to this crisis? How will your company maintain or repair the state of your company caused by the crisis? Develop multiple messages that are specific to each audience.
- Create templates
Create templates and holding statements. Creating templates in advance will allow you to respond immediately without having to produce an entire message from scratch.
- Establish Notification and Monitoring Systems
Determine what forms of communication you will implement to notify your stakeholders (email, social media, television, etc.). Depending on the crisis, it is also important to establish monitoring systems that monitor the situation and allow you to respond to external audiences.
It is essential that you understand that all businesses are vulnerable to crises, therefore, having a crisis communication plan is valuable to every occupation. Moreover, remember, you should follow these steps in creating multiple crisis communication plans. You should not have a universal crisis communication plan because every crisis will have its unique characteristics to address.
Lastly, it is important to understand the risks in not having a well-developed communication plan. Truly, it all boils down to cost. Not effectively communicating with your stakeholders could cost your company their reputation, customers, revenue, and investors.
So remember, your company is not immune to disaster. Take the time to develop effective crisis communication plans using our top five crisis communication plan components.
Are you looking to expand your communication skillset in crisis communication? Stevenson University Online’s Master’s in Communication Studies program offers a Crisis Communication course that equips working professionals with the skills to develop innovative strategies for effective solutions in responding to crises.
Stevenson University Online offers Bachelor's and Master's programs that can equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today's professional landscape. Programs include Business Communication, Business and Technology Management, and Communication Studies. All courses are online, allowing you to continue working while pursuing your degree. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-531-7118.