Unit 3.2: Crisis Management
Team and Leadership

Crisis Communication Plan

Crisis communication refers to the information communicated by an organization in response to a crisis affecting customers, employees and/or the organization’s reputation.

In an emergency, the need to communicate is immediate. Designing appropriate crisis communication procedures can help an organization prevent ineffective and potentially damaging crisis responses and foster the trust and confidence of its stakeholders that is vital in a crisis. A well-developed and continuously updated crisis communications plan ensures that the organization has the appropriate infrastructure in place to respond to crises and protect its credibility, brand and reputation.

A crisis communication plan is a set of procedures related to how to communicate internally, within the organization and key business partners, and externally, with customers, public, media, etc., during an unexpected and significant negative event.

Crisis communication is the responsibility of the Crisis Management Team.

Crisis Communication Plan is an integral part of the Crisis Management Plan and must be fully aligned with its overall governance, strategy and tactics. The Crisis Management Team prepares and approves the communication policy and actions per case and the Communication Team deploys the actions as agreed.

•The team should identify specific stakeholders to reach out to in an emergency. These individuals and entities will likely vary depending on the incident but may include:

•Employees & their families
•Customers & clients
•Company management
•Investors & shareholders
•Regional or country or global media
•General public
•Government organizations, regulators & other authorities
•Suppliers & third parties

Establish internal communications strategies that ensure staff are prepared and actively involved in mitigating the impact of the crisis, have processing tools and information channels available to them should something happen, and understand what is expected of them should a situation arise.

3.3.1.1. Define tools, routes and responsibilities for communications

Different employees will be affected in different ways during a crisis and therefore you will need to approach them differently. You may have people who work from home or out on the road, people who work in different offices or different time zones, or non-office employees without easy access to a computer.

The internal audience also extends to employees’ families, seasonal or contracted workers and the responsibility for communicating with them mainly lies to the Human Resources Manager.

Considering these audiences, you should also consider the appropriate communication approach for each of them and prepare communication tools such as cascades, emailing, SMS, internal websites, social media, or even printed posters in communal areas.

3.3.1.2 Establish a process for sharing information between crisis management team and employees

Life proved that the best way to communicate with employees when an incident occurs is to communicate with everyone at the same time because you want everyone to think and act immediately. The employees will need to be informed of the following:

1.Whether it is safe for them to come into the office
2.Where they should go if they cannot go into the office
3.Which services are still available to them
4.Work expectations of them during the incident management

One communication channel is not enough as people have different modes of communication. An effective way to communicate with employees is to implement a notification system through which HR can communicate directly with employees in the affected areas through various communication methods: work, home and cell phones, work email addresses, and text messages (push notifications, SMS). Employees can respond to any of the alerts so HR can quickly identify anyone who needs help.

3.3.1.3 Draft key messages and talking points

Prepare a standby statement while you gather details about the incident. Examples: “We’re looking into the situation and will get back to you soon” or “We realize this is an inconvenience and will make sure to provide you with more information as soon as possible.”

Communicate only what you are doing, not what you are not doing. Example: “The company is providing temporary housing for all employees in the affected area who do not currently have access to their homes.”

Employees should be made aware of your organization´s media and social media policy and know what messages about the unfolding crisis should be shared with anyone outside the organization (family, friends, etc.)

Establishing strategies for external communication Crisis Management Team ensures the crisis is properly communicated to your customers, suppliers, regulators and any other third-party, avoiding this way damage of the organization’s brand and reputation.

3.3.2.1 Define tools, routes and responsibilities for communications

Considering the audiences of the external communication, you should also consider the appropriate communication approach for each of them and manage tools and routes of communication such as phone, emailing, SMS, company website, social media.

In times of crisis, you will need a spokesperson to represent your organization to the outside world. This person is responsible for communicating and regulating the flow of information about your organization to the general public, stakeholders and the media.

As this person is authorized to speak on behalf of the company, it is important that:

•Be well trained.
•Have good communication skills.
•Show compassion
•Know the problem inside and out.

One of your most valuable tools in a crisis can be your website. Through this you can provide timely, up-to-date information and other information useful to the public, your customers and the media significantly reducing the number of phone calls your organization would otherwise receive.

If your organization doesn’t already use social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, you might consider implementing them to help monitor conversations and develop relationships with customers.

3.3.2.2 Set a process for communication with authorities, regulatory agencies, stakeholders, media and the public

Since during a crisis there is usually little time and a lot of panic, prepare a list of phone numbers and other contact information for local government authorities, regulatory authorities, public health departments, police and fire departments, suppliers and any other organizations you may need in a crisis.

3.3.2.3 Draft key messaging and talking points

Consider potential crisis scenarios your organization could face and prepare key messages to use in response. Think about what possible questions stakeholders and especially the media might ask you and prepare answers to them..

These messages can be used as a starting point and make quick changes if needed in a stressful situation due to an event.

Your messages should:
•State the cause of the crisis
•Briefly describe of what happened
•Show compassion for any victims of the crisis
•Provide instructions for protection if needed (ie, remember to wash your hands during a flu outbreak)

Communication with Media

Develop your statements based only on what you know about the crisis and make your messages short, accurate and positive.

Consider the channels available to communicate the messages, including interviews, press, news releases, your organization’s website or social media, etc.

Your communications plan should consider how you will use social media to address the crisis. Social media has a lot of power to share and gather information to influence many people’s perception of credibility especially when it comes to serious events and crisis information.

In general, when communicating with the media, stay on key messages, be honest and do not make promises if you are not sure you can keep.

Determine the frequency of media updates and ensure that all information is also available on your website. If you have no new updates on the status of the event, you should let others know.

«Never underestimate small news organizations.
Social media and newswires can take your story global, fast»
– Rick Amme, Rick Amme & Associates

Summary and Takeaways

Crisis Communication is governed and coordinated by the Crisis Management Team and operated by Crisis Communication Team

A Crisis Communication Plan should include the following core elements:
– Identify audiences to be communicated (Who?)
– How communication is to take place (How?)
– What messages are to be communicated (What?)
– Handling and Monitoring the media
– No comment is not an option
– If you don’t talk to the media, they will find someone who will
– Prepare key messages and target them effectively
– Ensure that the spokespersons are trained
– Don’t lie to them as later you will pay for it.


Check your understanding

Think about each of the following questions. If you are not sure of the answer, check what you have read to find the information you need before going on to the next question.

1 What are the core elements of a Crisis Communication Plan?

2 What strategies would you establish for internal crisis communication?

3 What strategies would you establish for external crisis communication?

«An issue ignored is a crisis invited»
– Henry Kissinger, Former United States Secretary of State