Yes, you can put together a plan quickly. Here’s how.
You don’t have time to create a crisis comms plan, but you also can’t afford not to.
So it’s time to sprint.
Here’s how to do it.
- Vulnerability assessment
- A crisis, according to Braud, is “a situation that could damage the revenue reputation and brand of your organization.”
- Look at possible crises that could arise, from fast-moving events like active shoots or natural disasters to slower-burn events like a product recall or a negative social media post.
- Bring in stakeholders from different departments to ensure you’re covering the full scope of potential problems — not just the ones you can see from your office.
- Create the plan
Braud says that one properly written plan can serve nearly any type of crisis. It’s vital that it clearly outlines key responsibilities so there’s no ambiguity in the moment. This plan should include:
- What to do
- Who does it
- How they do it
- How they gather, confirm and disseminate information
- How fast they must do it — this is certainly faster than you think it is. Assume you need to have an initial statement within 15 minutes of a crisis arising.
Keep your plan clear and specific to your organization — a free template off the internet won’t help you here.
- Pre-write news statements
- Go back to step 1.
- Look at all those different scenarios you outlined and write draft press releases on each of them. Get legal and C-suite sign off of them all.
- When disaster does strike, all you have to do is change details and press “send.” This will allow you all to focus more on the unexpected parts of your disaster than handling the basics.
- Choose your spokespeople
Braud says you need three kinds of spokespeople in a crisis.
- A PR person will typically deliver the first, basic statement that delivers the who, what, when, where, why and how. Avoid speculation at any cost, especially when it comes to the why and the how. Own what you don’t know — and don’t take questions for now.
- Second comes a subject matter expert who can speak to the particular nature of the crisis. This could be an IT person for a data breach or a production manager in the case of an industrial accident. They can give context and depth.
- Only bring out your CEO or other top executives for the largest scale events — usually those involving death or mass casualty. Bould says they are able to “convey the ultimate empathy.” Getting them involved too soon can escalate situations prematurely.
Use those pre-written statements from step 3. They can be a great jumping off point for talking points.
- Every plan needs a strong stress test. You need to practice applying your plan.
- Make it feel real. Braud says to write the test like a murder mystery, with twists and turns. It should feel stressful!
- Once you’ve found the weak points, refine your plan. Make it better. And be ready.
See the full video on Ragan Training..