What is a Crisis Communication Plan?
Navigating Uncertainty? Managing through a Crisis?
Crisis management is an essential function in organizations and failure to respond correctly to critical events can harm business results, stakeholders and the company’s public image. A crisis can be defined as any significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not dealt with properly. A threat is potential damage that a crisis can cause the organization, its stakeholders and its reputation.
Failure to deal with an incident may lead to interruptions in operations, potential lawsuits or payments and can certainly imply a threat to an organization’s reputation.
What is a crisis management plan?
A Crisis Management Plan (CMP) is a document that describes the processes that an organization should use to respond to a critical situation that could adversely affect its profitability, reputation or ability to operate. CMPs improve your business continuity and can be used by emergency management, crisis management and damage assessment teams to prevent or minimize damages and provide guidelines for personnel, resources and communications.
Defining a crisis and type of crisis
A crisis requires quick decisions to limit damages to an organization, its stakeholders and the public. By providing a well-documented set of responses to possible critical situations, a CMP allows an organization to act quickly in the event of an emergency.
Potential crises include:
- Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes;
- Other serious environmental events such as floods, snowstorms and droughts;
- Biological risks, including foodborne illnesses and pandemics;
- Accidental events caused by humans, such as fires, explosions, collapse of buildings or structures and hazardous material spills;
- Intentional human-caused events such as robberies, violent acts and arson; and
- Technological events such as disruptions and cyber-attacks.
What to include in a crisis management plan?
Crisis management planning includes preparation, process development, testing and training.
To create an effective CMP, you should follow these steps:
- Determine crisis management team members.
- Document the criteria for determining whether a crisis has occurred.
- Establish monitoring systems and practices for early warning of possible crisis situations.
- Specify the spokesperson in the event of a crisis.
- Provide a list of the main emergency contacts.
- Document who should be notified in the event of a crisis and how this notification should occur.
- Identify a process for assessing the incident, its potential severity and how it will affect Assets and employees.
- Identify procedures to respond to the crisis and define safe places where employees can go in an emergency.
- Develop a social media and marketing strategy in the event of a crisis.
- Develop a process to test the effectiveness of the crisis management plan and update it on a regular basis.
The importance of a communication
During a crisis situation, employees look to management for leadership and guidance. Lack of direct communication with your most essential assets will make them feel isolated, disengaged and ‘out of the loop’ from decision-makers.
By creating a business crisis communication model with possible scenarios, determining the appropriate communication channels, and then add the necessary information, organisations can rapidly and efficiently respond when incidents occur.
Mass notification systems that have the capability to share information through multiple channels are a necessity for organisations going through change. By sending communications via different means at the same time, it helps ensure no one is left in the dark.
Testing and updating your plan
Every successful crisis management plan should remain a living document. This means distributing it to employees, implementing training and testing and updating on a regular basis. Training sessions should be conducted so employees and management understand what to do in the event of a crisis.