Creating a Crisis Communication Plan

A crisis can hit your business in many forms: natural disasters, accidents, negative publicity, or even a global pandemic. A crisis communication plan thinks about the possibilities of what could happen to your business and plans ahead for how you will communicate during that time.

When COVID-19 hit, many small businesses were forced to close temporarily to help control the spread, and many had to make significant changes to procedures in order to reopen. Most business owners couldn’t predict a global pandemic on that scale, but a general crisis plan would still address an extended closure for other reasons. Crisis could be a tornado that tears off the roof and knocks out power to a daycare. Or it could be a catering company where a contaminated product from a supplier causes illness for many guests at an event.

We never know when a crisis might hit, but we do have the ability to plan ahead in order to better manage communication in the midst of a crisis. Here are some key things to consider.

Have a written plan
First and foremost, write it down! There is so much value in having a written plan where all the information is in one place. When a crisis happens, there are lots of things to manage all at once. It’s overwhelming, but a written plan can help you stay focused on what’s more important. It doesn’t have to be an overly formal document or even a long one, but it needs to be a written plan that outlines the steps your business will follow in the event of a crisis.

Ensure access to your business files
Your crisis plan should include information about how to access your business files, particularly in case your office and computers are damaged. To create this part of your plan, we recommend working with an IT company that specializes in small business backups and recovery. At the very least, save your business files to the cloud so they can be accessed from anywhere, but consider going a step further than that with a true data recovery plan. Document who you should contact to gain access to recovery files, if needed.

Know how to reach people
This sounds simple, but it can be easily overlooked before a crisis. You need to know how to reach your employees and your customers if something happens. Do you have customer contact details stored in a web-based system? What about employee contact information and emergency contacts for employees? Be sure to update the employee contact information regularly so you’re prepared if something happens.

Identify the top priorities
Sit down and think about the possibilities of what could happen to your business in the event of a crisis and what you need to do in response. What matters most if there’s a fire or flooding at your office? What needs to happen if a tornado hits your area and impacts employees or customers? How do you communicate to customers about safety in the midst of a pandemic? The top priorities are going to look different for every business, but this section is likely to include details about safety, security, and communication.

Designate a spokesperson
Lastly, designating a spokesperson for your organization and include complete contact information for them. You might also include some guidelines around who can post to social media and what those messages should say in the event of a crisis. In some crisis situations, the news media may come to your location for an interview, and it’s important to note who is authorized to speak to media. Typically, that’s the company owner, but any employees on site should know that and know what contact information to provide.

Once you create your crisis communications plan, be sure to update it regularly so it has all the right information when you actually need it.

Need help creating a crisis communication plan for your organization? Contact us today to start a conversation.

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