What’s a Crisis Communication Plan?
Any lawyer will tell you that the best way to handle a crisis is to prepare for it before it happens. Even if you have a small business, you should still draft a crisis communication plan for any kind of unforeseen event. This will ensure you keep good communication between your customers, employees, and investors. Your crisis communication plan should prepare you for any kind of internal or external crisis such as a:
- Compliance issue
- Public legal proceeding
- Natural disaster
- Outbreak or pandemic
- Internal conflict
Even if you feel your business does not need to make a statement right away, you should still have a plan in motion. The worst possible thing you could do in the event of a crisis is to ignore it.
Your crisis communication plan can also be used for any internal issue or change. It promotes good communication, so your employees are informed, which builds morale.
Why You Should Create a Crisis Communication Plan
Crisis plans don’t just help you plan for the best course of action, they also help buy your business more time to understand the situation. Even if your initial statement doesn’t have a direct solution, you should let your audience know that you do acknowledge the situation.
For example, the popular food-chain Chipotle came under fire for an e.Coli outbreak in 2016. Although there may not have been a way for the restaurant to know exactly how many restaurants could be affected by the outbreak, they should still inform the public. Chipotle did not release a statement and showed negligence towards the situation.
This made many people feel that Chipotle didn’t care about the public’s health and safety. Thus, their sales and reputation was affected. Even if your business cannot control a situation, being proactive and informing your audience is vital for your business.
Even in less dramatic situations, promoting good communication lets your audience know that your business is on top of any situation. This is especially true for internal conflicts and situations. Rather than letting your employees gossip about a situation, being open and honest will prevent any unnecessary drama or rumours starting.
Start By Assessing Your Risks
Have you ever thought of the different risks that commonly happen in the world, and ones that would specifically affect your business? Make some generic statements about those situations. Regardless of the situation, any of your crisis statements and plans should be empathic and reassuring.
Start by thinking of internal and external problems that could arise. For instance, let’s say you own a bakery. It’s likely your business would be at-risk for things like fires or cross-contamination.
Next, think of some specific details that could affect your business, your employees, and your investors. Recognize the key individuals that would be involved, and how they can potentially help or worsen the situation.
From there, you’ll want to create a plan of action. At this point, you may want to call your business lawyer and see what they would recommend. Even though you may want to draft them alone to save money, things will quickly become expensive if you’re sued for negligence. A lawyer will know all the risks associated with your business, and the best course of action to take in unforeseen events.
A Crisis Action Plan In 5 Easy Steps
There are a few basic things lawyers and PR specialists will recommend when you create an action plan. After you’ve assessed different risks and gone through some scenarios, you’ll want to create solutions. We recommend using these 5 tools when creating your plan.
1. Use a spokesperson
Whether it’s you or someone else, you’ll want to have a clear voice and face attached to your message. The spokesperson speaks on behalf of the entire company. This helps establish your brand and makes your business appear more human. Having a single person be the sole voice of your company helps your audience grasp your message more clearly.
2. Be proactive
The best way to stop a crisis is to prevent it before it happens. Now that you know all the risks involved in your business, what measures can you take to prevent them? For instance, if we think of our bakery example, you can install additional smoke detectors to prevent fires.
Being proactive also means keeping up to date with how the crisis progresses. If something were to change or develop during the course of the crisis, you may need to change your approach.
3. Track the progress and escalation
Sometimes you’ll only have to make one statement or make one change. Depending on the seriousness of the situation and how well you control the crisis, you may have to take additional steps.
Work with your customer service team and your lawyer to decide what measures you need to take. Break each crisis into levels of progression so you track how serious the situation gets. This tactic will also help keep control of the situation so it won’t get too out of hand.
4. Plan a social media response
You may already use social media for promotion and marketing your business, but you can use it for crises too. Using social media can also lead to PR crisis in itself if not used correctly. Your social media manager should have a set of posting guidelines and rules for interacting online.
If you already have a social media manager, make sure they understand that they play a vital role in any crisis. Work with your customer service and social media team to draft what role social media will play in the crisis. Nowadays, it’s customary to use social media for any press releases.
5. Respond to customer feedback and continue to analyze
Even despite a crisis ending, your customers and investors could still be affected. Be sure to check in with your audience to see how they’ve responded to your plan.
After any crisis, you should take time to reflect on the situation. Ask yourself:
- What went wrong
- What steps you took to fix it
- If those actions negatively or positively affected your business
- How quickly you responded and overcame the crisis
- What you might change about your crisis response
Even if your crisis plan worked out perfectly, there are always ways you can make improvements. Revisit your crisis plan afterwards, and decide if you need to make any necessary changes.
Want expert advice on handling a crisis? Our Premier Partners can give you tools to help your business overcome any crisis. To get free legal advice, call the number at the top of your screen.