Thank you to IABC Manitoba for inviting me to speak to them today about crisis communications. We’ve helped a number of our clients through difficult crises over the years – from floods to fires and bomb threats. We have also helped craft and draft crisis communications plans and protocols.
It’s important that you take some time to prepare your organization for a crisis. Take an afternoon with your executive team to discuss what kinds of crises your organization may face and how you would respond to them. If you wait until a crisis hits, you may find yourself doing emergency planning instead of urgent communicating to your employees, customers and other stakeholders.
In a serious crisis, you will have very little time in which to craft and deliver your first public message, but it’s important that you do. Media and others will begin telling the story with or without you. We recommend that you add your voice to the story even if (or maybe especially if) doing so scares you. If you have planned in advance, then dealing with a crisis will be easier.
Here are a few things we recommend you do in advance:
- Decide who is on your crisis team. Make sure you have representatives covering all your bases: executives, legal, HR, communications, operations, etc.
- Make sure your organization – including your frontline staff – know what to do in the event of a crisis. It’s important that they know to report it up immediately.
- Ensure you have your organization’s key messages handy regarding safety, codes of conduct, regulatory protocols, etc. The more these are rooted in the core values of your organization, the better. If you live these key messages and values, then speaking to them in a crisis will come naturally.
- Draft sample announcements that you can use later.
- Decide if you need a muster point for your crisis team in the event of evacuation.
- Make sure you have access available remotely to your organization’s communications channels including website, social media, newswires, etc.
- Give some thought to how you would organize a crisis command centre if you were facing a serious situation.