The best time to develop a communication plan that is used during a crisis is to create it before such an incident materializes. Doing so should be right up there with funding your business, creating its mission statement and hiring the talent needed to reach its goals.
It’s Never Too Late
Even if your business is well established, it’s not too late to design a crisis communication plan. Doing so now — before a crisis hits — means you’ll be able to focus your energies and resources on addressing the actual crisis itself.
Create a Crisis Communication Team
Keep the crisis communication team small with the leader ideally being the CEO. Add in any senior public relations staff, if your business is large enough to have one. Barring that, bring in top employees such as management and division heads.
Identify a Spokesperson
From within your crisis communication team, appoint a spokesperson. In a small business, this is likely to be the owner, CEO or vice-president. The right person will be someone who is comfortable addressing an audience and who has firsthand knowledge of the workings behind the business.
There could be more than one spokesperson depending on the medium. For example, the business owner could be very comfortable addressing stakeholders and the media. Social media communication, on the other hand, might be better handled by an intern or a junior member of the team. The key here is to deliver the same information across all media platforms.
While every crisis is different, chances are you won’t know all the information necessary when it first breaks. It’s important to have a statement that’s ready to be released when you first learn about the issue.
This statement should acknowledge that a crisis has occurred and assure readers that your business is moving forward with an assessment. Additionally, if it’s likely that more information will need to be shared at a later date, wording to that effect ensures the public that you’ll continue to follow up with the issue.
The key to communication during a crisis is to be prepared, proactive and transparent. Make sure to address any questions, even if this means that you’ll need to get back to the person at a later date.