The big one never hits when you expect it to. That’s why we conduct fire drills and why we have trained staff ready to address system failures and workplace accidents. We have protocol written down and we might even practice ways to respond quickly when someone gets hurt or a key piece of equipment malfunctions. But most companies forget to plan for communication during a crisis and that’s a big mistake.
Communication might be the last thing you think about when planning for a crisis, but it will be one of the first issues you need to address when a problem arises.
Preparing a thorough crisis communication plan requires significant time and energy. Below are a few tips to get you started when planning for a crisis:
- Assemble a decision team – The decision about what to say and when to say it is a big one. Most companies will determine this as a group, but few identify that group in advance. Recruit a small, nimble team of management and staff who have both the authority and expertise to craft communication. When a problem happens, this group should convene immediately.
- Consider all your audiences – When planning for a crisis, companies often worry about the news media or customer impact. But don’t forget about your other key constituencies, including employees, board members, vendors and other individuals or groups who probably deserve timely information.
- Communicate early – It’s human nature to communicate only when we have all the facts. Unfortunately, a crisis doesn’t afford you with this luxury. It’s important to be prepared to provide an early message that shows you are dealing with the problem. Bite-sized updates can follow, as you learn more information and have solutions to address various elements of the crisis.
It’s far too easy to delay crisis planning. Don’t procrastinate – the more you plan, the better prepared your company will be to address unexpected challenges swiftly. Don’t forget, the sooner the crisis is over, the sooner you can get back to business as usual.