As we have seen recently, life does not always go as planned. It is those moments that can make or break a business. Take a minute to ask yourself the following question: How would you, a business owner, communicate to your suppliers, stakeholders, employees, and customers during a crisis? Would you be scrambling to address the issue, or would you be executing a crisis communication plan? Crisis preparedness is vital to the success of your business. Below, learn the importance of a crisis communication plan and how you can equip yourself and your team for top-notch crisis management.

The Importance of a Crisis Communication Plan

Having a crisis communication plan in place enables a business to provide timely information and confident reassurance when internal and external audiences are worried or unsure. Proper communication signifies stability and openness when trust is shaky. 

A crisis communication plan is a business’s pre-planned guide in case of an unexpected event or emergency. When a crisis occurs, it is necessary to communicate quickly and effectively. A crisis communication plan should have step-by-step guidelines on the following information:

  • Your response plan when the crisis initially occurs
  • Guidelines for handling external and internal communications during the crisis
  • How to stabilize after the crisis has subsided

Plan for the Crisis

Motivational speaker Denis Waitley once said, “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” It is with this mentality that you should create your crisis communication plan. When devising your plan, put together a task force and a checklist.

First, you need a task force that can communicate information beyond the status quo in a cadence that reduces uncertainty in your employees and the public. When in doubt, over-communicate. Overcommunication demonstrates that you are prepared for an emergency event and can handle it with tact and empathy. In addition, it reinforces transparency. Your audience will find comfort in knowing that you will share all available information, no matter how small.

Next, your plan should include a checklist detailing what needs to be done (or communicated). To further clarify the checklist, include a timeline or schedule and assign each item to specific people. This will keep all involved parties synced up, whether they on the job or working from home. The checklist in a crisis communication plan represents the idea of leading through today but thinking about tomorrow. A well-defined checklist should follow the W3 Discipline: who does what by when.

  • Who: the person responsible for carrying out the action
  • What: the action that needs to be done
  • When: the time in which the action will be done

Addressing the W3 Discipline in your crisis communication plan ensures that everyone is up-to-date on what to communicate, who will communicate, and when to communicate.

Plan for the Aftermath

Creating a task force and a checklist will allow your business to remain sustainable throughout a crisis, but what happens after the crisis is over? There has to be a proactive crisis communication playbook for both the duration of the crisis and the aftermath. Consider how you will transition back to business as normal and create a plan for making that transition as smooth as possible.

Perhaps the most important part of crisis recovery is to measure and analyze. Look back on a recent crisis your business has experienced, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Think about how you handled that crisis—analyze your approach. What worked? What didn’t work? From there, build a playbook for future crises. Identify something that worked during the last crisis and turn that approach into a formula that can be used again. Identify what didn’t work and formulate a new approach that would reduce the chance of that same thing happening again.

Do You Have a Crisis Communication Plan?

By definition, a crisis is an event characterized by change, difficulty, and instability. Therefore, your typical way of communicating likely won’t be enough to combat the crisis. Ask yourself this important question: how will  communications during a crisis differ from normal communications? When you can answer that, you’re one step closer to maximizing your crisis preparedness. Define your crisis communication so that when the inevitable hits, you are ready.

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