During chaotic times, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed not know what to do. A crisis is never an easy situation and feeling lost or not knowing your next step is common. From our more than 20 years’ experience in crisis situations, we developed a list of seven things to do to prepare for a crisis. It’s best to identify some of these things now so you are better prepared should a crisis strike your organization (when a crisis strikes your organization).
1. Be Proactive
Instead of getting caught up in the madness, press pause and think about what you need to do to come out of this crisis with your organization’s best foot forward. Think about the highest priority for your organization and take time to put together a plan (even if jotted down in a notebook) to elevate your organization’s voice and goals. Establishing the priorities now will allow you to be more efficient should a crisis strike.
2. Know Potential Risk
The key to a great crisis communications plan is to know your weaknesses. Suggestion: complete a SWOT analysis well in advance of a crisis to help identify risks. To get ahead, identify incidents that are likely to happen. This allows you to find the audience or audiences that is likely to be impacted and to anticipate most difficult situations ahead of time to minimize effect.
3. Organize a Crisis Team
Now that you have an idea of how extensively your organization will be impacted by possible scenarios, it is time to assemble a team to manage any potential crises. Create an internal list of employees or hire a firm with crisis expertise like Novitas to assist you. Create crisis tiers and assign a team accordingly, perhaps your team for a level five crisis is larger than your team for a level one crisis. Regardless, you must have a list of employees who have the capacity to drop everything focus on the crisis at hand.
4. Identify and Train Key Spokespersons
When a crisis happens for your organization, you must have a list of key spokespersons who will speak on behalf of the organization. For example, ABC News is calling and wants to speak with someone in a few minutes to get insight and understand the specific crisis details happening at your organization. Instead of getting caught up in the stress of finding someone, the already confirmed list of spokespersons takes away what could be an added stress.
In addition, your stakeholders must be prepared and ready to combat anything the reporter throws their way. Create talking points to give your stakeholders to reference and train them to speak confidently.
5. Develop a Strategy
Since you have a crisis team and a list of spokespersons, it is time to develop a strategy and plan that mirrors your values and goals. As you do so, you must assemble messaging that is authentic, but also remain sensitive to the potential crisis to prevent further damage. Furthermore, select communications channels that reach your target audience(s) for the potential crises.
6. Monitor the Media and Plan for the Worst
As you’re working through a crisis, it is vital to monitor the media. Perhaps a crisis team member could have media monitoring as his or her sole responsibility for higher-tiered crises. To do so, create Google alerts for your organizations name so articles mentioning your organization will automatically appear in your inbox. Ensure the person responsible is also searching keywords on social media to see if people are posting about the said crisis. Setting up keywords and searches take time, and they may change in a crisis, having the list of defined keywords and the searches already complete allows you more flexibility if a crisis does happen.
7. Plan Your Reactions
Before a negative article is online mentioning your organization, spend time writing responses and leaving some of the blanks to fill in. A statement is more throughout when you have time to think it through. Let’s say a negative article comes out of nowhere targeting your organization. While your gut reaction may be to call the media immediately, editing an already prepared statement and writing down your response and asking one or two key employees read and approve the response before releasing it to the public will make for a calmer and more thoughtful response. Once something hits the media, there is no turning back, and you don’t want to create additional damage. Planning your reactions will prevent further destruction.
Do you have more questions about how to build crisis communications plan? Got some ideas in your head, but not sure how to execute? Reach out to the Novitas team and we’ll help you structure a strategy that fits your organization’s goals and has you prepared for a crisis.
Interested in crisis as an ongoing service? Check out our PR Protect, an annual PR crisis team on call for you.