Crisis 101: How to Create an Effective Crisis Management Plan
In a crisis, your brand, your credibility, and your entire reputation are on the line. That’s why it’s essential to be prepared. Having a crisis management plan in place helps you get control of the situation and mitigate any potential long-term damage. Here, we provide a step-by-step guide to creating your plan – so you’re ready for anything.
What is a crisis management plan?
Think of your crisis management plan as an essential survival tool. Face it: how you handle a crisis can determine whether your business thrives or dies. Make sure your plan outlines what you should do before, during, and after the crisis.
How to create your crisis plan
Designate your crisis management team
Determine who you want on your crisis management team; make sure everyone knows their roles and is familiar with the plan. Your team should include a PR professional, spokesperson, attorney, and key staff members.
How to pick your team
Your team will comprise at least one public relations professional, one or more spokespersons, an attorney, your board members, key influencers, your social media team, and an internal communication lead.
- Public Relations Professional: PR specialists know how to change public perception with the right media and marketing campaigns.
- Spokesperson(s): One person should answer all questions and make all presentations to ensure that information comes from one source. They should be a member of your executive team, selectively chosen for the issue at hand. A good spokesperson will deliver messages accurately and earn the public’s trust.
- Attorney: Your legal team should be consulted to help respond to investigations and prevent legal liability.
- Board Members: Your board members should be consulted on how they want the organization to respond in a particular crisis, and they should be enlisted to help monitor emerging risks.
- Key Influencers: Other people who may have outside influence over the organization’s audience. Identify third-party partners for potential endorsement or to multiply and amplify your key messages and information.
- Social Media Team: Identify your strongest social media copywriters who will draft posts and responses for social media. Select one individual to monitor, inventory and submit responses to social media inquiries, comments and messages.
Evaluate your risks
Gather your team for a “what if” brainstorming session. Make a list of all potential circumstances that could make you vulnerable to a crisis, and write a general procedure for responding to each one.
Identify how these risks will impact your business
Each potential circumstance brings different risks. Analyze each one to determine the impact it could have on your organization.
Identify key audiences
Consider your company’s client audiences and what messaging they might respond to best.
Anticipate the tough questions
To inform your communications strategy, make a list of potential tough questions and prepare responses to them. We recommend addressing the standard W and H questions:
- Who’s involved?
- What happened?
- When did it happen?
- Where did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
- How did it happen?
- How much did it cost?
Establish a communications strategy
- Know how to find and alert your spokesperson
- Develop a few clear, simple messages for the media
- Have a list of tough questions ready with prepared responses
- Prepare a FAQ to share with staff and colleagues
- Create 5-10 approved social media posts and responses
- Compile a “media kit” for reporters
- Respond to news media quickly and fairly
- Stick to your message and don’t get angry
Plan for a post-crisis assessment
Should a crisis occur, use the experience to improve your response for the next time. A post-crisis assessment protocol should be built into your crisis plan. At a minimum, you should ask these questions:
- Could you have done anything to prevent the crisis?
- Did you like the way the crisis was handled?
- What would you do differently in the future?
A public relations crisis doesn’t need to leave you with your head spinning. With a thoughtful plan, you’ll be able to get through any crisis successfully.
Marc Silverstein is Co-Founder, President & CEO of On The Marc Media