Did you participate in fire drills at school? If the fire alarm goes off in your building – do you know what to do? We prepare for that danger, but it’s important to be ready for whatever crisis may come.
Weather, world events, technical difficulties, and yes, even global pandemics throw a wrench in our lives. And for businesses, these events can put the brakes on everything. And while you are scrambling to problem-solve, your customers or clients are contacting you for information and updates.
You need a plan. You don’t wait until you’re in the middle of the fire to talk about what should be done. There’s no need to wait until a crisis hits to scramble for ways to communicate.
When an ice storm hits, and you need to close or cancel appointments – how will your patrons be notified? If a negative tweet about your organization goes viral – how can you respond in a way that won’t add flame to the fire? What happens if your Internet, power, or water goes out? Or of your systems are hacked and your customers’ private data is breached?
This might cause you to feel slightly panicked about the future, rest assured there is really no need to freak out. You’ve got this! Especially if you have a good crisis communication plan. When there is an issue, there are a few questions that your crisis communication plan can help answer:
Who Will Communicate?
Sometimes when a crisis is happening, leaders can feel like they are being pulled in a million directions. Plagued with solving the problem at hand while communicating to employees, clients, and the community can be daunting.
And like a game of telephone that we played as kids, a message can get confused when it comes through many different sources. Having a communication plan prepares you to designate someone to speak to the public, respond to phone calls, and manage social media while you work to come up with solutions and resolve the crisis.
Knowing ahead of time who you can trust to show grace under pressure and get accurate and timely information goes a long way. Someone who is proactive and not reactive when it comes to crisis communication can help save your business’ reputation.
The old adage tells us that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. But when your business is in crisis and you can’t afford to keep quiet, having someone who may communicate impulsively can do a lot of damage. Waiting until a crisis occurs to find the right person for the job is not the best idea for such a critical role.
How Will They Communicate?
Figuring out who will get your messages out is half the battle. Most businesses wait until they are in the middle of a situation to decide how they are going to notify their community of what is happening. But in a crisis, not all your communication methods may be functioning.
Here are some issues to consider:
- How will you communicate if you are without power or Internet access?
- If you normally send people to your website for the latest information – what happens if you cannot get ahold of your web content manager during the crisis? What if their updates take 24 hours to publish and your clients need current information?
- If you have someone else doing your social media – do you have access to the accounts in case they are unavailable for updates?
- Do you have a paper list with the contact information for key stakeholders in your business that you may need to access if you can’t get online?
- Can you direct all your clients to one website or social media page for updates?
Having a crisis communication plan helps you answer most of these questions ahead of time, and that your entire team will know what to do when it happens.
What Will They Communicate
Even if you assign a person to handle your communications during a crisis, you will still need to have a plan in place for how they will have the latest information approved by you. Information can change by the minute sometimes, and you want to make sure you are not passing along a message only to have to change it five minutes later.
Who signs off on communications before it is sent? Do you have a regular update schedule, so your clients, customers, or employees don’t go for too long without information?
With a proper crisis communication plan, you and your team will be able to handle whatever crisis comes your way without panicking. While it seems like extra work now, it will save you time later if it is needed.
If you need help with any of this – strategy, planning, or training please contact us. We would be happy to have a consultation with you to discuss your needs and budget and find a solution that will work for you and your team.