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How to Create a Best-Laid Crisis Communication Plan

The best-laid plans can go sideways. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make them, particularly when it comes to crisis management.

The best plan is the one set in place and put in motion. It keeps things running smoothly even when Twitter or the media goes into a feeding frenzy.

What are practical steps to take when making that plan? Here are six ideas:

1. Identify vulnerabilities.

Crisis communication pros use the term “vulnerability audit.” Basically, you consider all the internal and external factors that could lead to bad publicity.

Internal factors are organizational. Maybe a CEO is being asked to step down. Some stores are being closed.

External ones are societal. They can be sourced from current news reports. Does your brand come into contact with any of those issues? Could it?

2. Prioritize crises.

Not all crises require the same level of response. Learn to prioritize situations. The mudslinger on Twitter may not require a reply. The mayor does.

Christopher Jones, a contributor at Technori, puts it this way:

Judge how much authority your detractors command. If they aren’t respected, don’t respond—even if their criticisms are valid. Doing so gives credibility to them and their side. And if you do engage them, make sure you’re strategic. Whatever action you take should put you and your organization in a better position for success and recovery.

Are you ready for a crisis? Click here to get Cision’s free crisis communication tip sheet!

3. Determine communication channels.

Determine Crisis Communication Channels

You should always be where the crisis is taking place. But where else should you be? Look to the audience for answers. Where are they active?

Broadcast your messages there. They’re more likely to be heard and amplified.

4. Identify crisis responders.

Emergency personnel like firefighters and paramedics use a system called ICS. It’s short for “Incident Command System” and is a changeable and flexible process used to manage and coordinate emergency responses.

Use something similar at your organization. Determine “emergency responders.” Give them the tools they need to manage and coordinate a communications crisis, which can range from objectives to contact details.

How is the crisis team supposed to get in touch with you if something happens at one in the morning? Should they? The plan will contain contact information while the ICS will determine if you do or do not need to receive a 1 a.m. wake-up call.

5. Prepare a script.

No crisis may be exactly like another, but most messages can serve multiple purposes. Develop tweets, Facebook updates, and any other messaging before a crisis ever takes place.

6. Make the plan accessible.

A best-laid plan is the one that’s shared. Keep it on the company’s internal server or other shared resource. Don’t stop there; provide a hard copy to your communications team. If the Internet dies or some other technological malady occurs, the team still needs to know how to respond.

What ideas would you add to the list? The comments are yours.

Crisis Communication

About Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is the director of editorial services at Tenacity5 Media. When she isn’t researching, writing, and editing blog posts and white papers, she writes poetry and essays, draws her favorite Write Right character, and plans what art form to study next. She’s based in Austin, Texas and can be found on Twitter @erinmfeldman.

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