David Sykes, account manager at Carrington Communications, details how you should go about creating a crisis comms plan and what it needs to feature.
We all have days when the unexpected happens, and in the world of PR and comms, a perfectly normal day can give way to a crisis at any moment.
The most important thing for you and your client to remember is: don’t panic. Instead of you both pulling out your hair and thinking on the spot for a solution, calmly and coolly execute your crisis comms plan.
Here are my five steps that I think you should consider when formulating a crisis communications plan.
Understanding the need for a crisis comms plan
The main thing you need your client to understand is that almost every PR crisis can, broadly, be foreseen. A crisis comms strategy is all about preparation and you have to plan in peacetime. A tried and tested plan can protect your company or client in the face of PR crisis that could bring its reputation to its knees.
A perfectly planned response for each possible scenario means that you are ready and capable of diffusing a situation and making the best of it as soon as it arises.
Look for trouble
When we create a crisis comms plan with a client, we arrange a meeting with the head of marketing, the PR team and potentially the managing director or CEO of the company. We would then get the team to list everything that could possibly damage the company’s reputation and the publicity problems which could pop up.
Once all of these possible crises are listed, you then need to consider and discuss the best ways of dealing with each of these possible crises.
Plan your response
As we discuss the reactions for each of the scenarios we’ve listed, we’d decide what would be stated and how we’d communicate our messages, with what we’d say or do when the crisis first emerges and what we’d do if the crisis escalated.
The responses need to suit the business, how its customers perceive it and the company’s tone of voice and they need to be easily adapted for the exact circumstances of a future crisis.
Get it ready
No it’s time to put everything you discussed into a plan of action. Our PR team writes up a series of template responses and, if required, press statements for each scenario.
Once these are written, we present these to the other members of the crisis comms team, who amend or approve each of the statements, assigning a spokesperson for each one if appropriate who will also sign off the template statement or quote.
Putting the plan into action
Of course, as the saying goes, whatever can go wrong will go wrong, but when the proverbial hits the fan in future, everyone can stay calm because a plan is in place for the situation to be handled smoothly and effectively.
Because crisis comms responses have been planned in peacetime with due care and attention to detail, there’s no need for anyone to panic when things go wrong and there’s no need for any rash decisions made in the heat of a crisis. All your client needs to do is follow the plan… and remember, don’t panic.
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