It’s not only the Boy Scouts who need to be prepared…

its not only the boy scouts who need to be prepared
Crises in the workplace happen. We read about them everyday – violence, product recalls, employee misconduct, and strikes are some examples. And thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet, people will learn about and comment on the incident and your reaction to it almost immediately. That is why it is important to have a crisis communication plan in place before a crisis hits. While you may have to adapt it according to the actual situation, having a plan in place gives you and the key members of your organization a framework to go by when things aren’t running smoothly.

According to an article in the Summer 2012 The Strategist you need to do the following when putting together a crisis communication plan:

Assess your risk
What are your organization’s vulnerabilities? Can they cause harm to the lives of others, such as in a chemical spill or product recall? What about workplace violence or someone hacking into your computer system? Do you have a communication plan in place to deal with these issues should they occur? Have you ever considered that they could happen? It is crucial to be prepared for any type of crisis that could present itself at your company. So in this first step, make a list of any possible crisis that could happen within your organization. Once the list is complete, then you can move on to the next step:

Build the plan
While there are many different types of crises, there are five parts to every crisis communication plan:
1.) Gather the initial facts regarding the incident.
2.) Notify the crisis management team or key organization management and discuss the situation.
3.) Issue your first statement.
4.) Gather more facts.
5.) Issue more statements.

When things are calm, write a list of questions you must ask people in your organization so that you can write a press release about the incident. Also make a list with names, phone numbers and emails of key personnel in you organization, so that they can be reached in the event of a crisis. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, many businesses do not plan ahead for a possible crisis, and when one occurs, they are scrambling to find out what happened and locate the key people.

Craft your message
After your initial message, you must have a step by step plan that will help in gathering more information, so that you can put together and issue another statement about the incident that is more detailed than the first one. It is best to have a pre-written template for every incident identified in your vulnerability list (yes, every incident). The template should contain the bulk of what you would need to say on the day of the crisis and the rest would be filled in during the crisis.

Prepare key personnel
Crisis communications isn’t just the job of the PR Specialist; the head of the organization and his or her deputies need to know what to do in the event of a crisis. Crisis management is a team effort. Not only should the team be trained in what to say and what NOT to say during a crisis, they should be made aware of the crisis communications template that you have prepared. It is also advisable to conduct a “tabletop drill” so that you and the crisis team can practice with a mock scenario. Test out the plan to find out what works and what doesn’t. A drill will give those involved a frame of reference if and when a crisis occurs, and it will help to drive home the importance of planning ahead.

No one wants to think about a crisis in their own organization, but like it or not things happen. By planning ahead, you will help protect your organization’s reputation and minimize the negative fallout that accompanies crisis.

Braud, Gerard “Clear Skies Ahead. Sunny Day Secrets to Effective Crisis Communications.” The Strategist Summer 2012