Most companies do not have a communications crisis plan. Why not? Because most managers tend to bury their heads in the sand, pretending that crises do not happen at their organisation.
There are a number of different stages to a crisis. There is the smothering stage where the mutterings start and internally staff become agitated. There is the really smoking stage when tensions are high and employees are not talking to each other, not even to say good morning, so hence the team becomes dysfunctional. Finally, there is the fire stage - when someone walks in with a gun and starts shooting –- Okay yes, this is a bit extreme but you get where I am going. Most internal crises have a starting point and a listening organization is able to identify them early and put a solution in place to prevent any damage to the company’s reputation and its productivity.
However, all crises cannot be detected early. There are incidents such as a bank robbery, or an employee dying on the job that cannot be predicted. These types of phenomena happen suddenly and it is essential to have an updated crisis plan in place to save the organisation from making a mistake which could damage its reputation.
A crisis plan is a living document. It is not to be prepared and then left to sit on a shelf somewhere forever. It must be constantly updated and all key stakeholders must know of its existence and must have had some input in its development. It is also a best practice to have a yearly consultation on your crisis plan so that everyone in the organisation knows it exists and the steps to take in a crisis situation.
The Institute for Public Relations suggests the following crisis plan best practices:
- Have a crisis management plan and update it at least annually.
- Have a designated crisis management team that is properly trained.
- Conduct exercises at least annually to test the crisis management plan and team.
- Pre-draft select crisis management messages including content for dark web sites and templates for crisis statements. Have the legal department review and pre-approve these messages.
I hope this convinces you that a crisis plan is essential to every organization.
To read more on crisis planning go to http://www.instituteforpr.org/crisis-management-and-communications/.