AB Thinks  →  17th May 2018

Part 3 – Backing your IC crisis comms plan with the right process

AB Thinks

It’s the final part in our crisis comms series. Your IC crisis team are in place and the channels to support them are ready, but what’s the piece that ties it all together? Our Account Manager, Janice Fitzgerald, guides you through introducing the crisis comms process that’s just right for your organisation.

It’s important when preparing for any type of crisis that your team and your organisation understand what you’re planning and how.

Establish what crisis means for your organisation

When planning for crisis, take the time to understand what exactly the term ‘crisis’ means for your organisation. Consider both internal and external factors that could influence a state of crisis. To cover all angles, why not adopt an exercise where you ask your different stakeholder groups across the business to define their definition of a crisis – these groupings can be broken down by function, role or staff level.

List audiences to notify, together with any questions they might ask

Create and maintain a crisis comms database: This should list the audiences you wish to engage with during a crisis, their location and the channels applicable to them. To ensure that this captures everyone in the organisation, it’s recommended that these are updated as frequently as possible using the HR data available.

External engagement: If your organisation doesn’t have an external affairs function, you may want to consider who the IC crisis team have to communicate to externally during a crisis. These groups could include:

  • Customers
  • Local or national media
  • People who live close to your business
  • Authorities
  • Press agencies

Consider questions your audience might ask: Your audience may have a number of questions that you can pre-empt. Think about things like their location or function and how the crisis might affect them differently to the rest of the business. For instance, an employee might ask if it’s safe to come into work. Considering questions like this can also help you draft template answers, so you’re well prepared.

Identify potential scenarios

A crisis can be overwhelming, so it’s important to draft different scenarios beforehand with your team. Depending on your organisation this could include:

  • A health and safety breach e.g. injury to staff or customer
  • A quality issue with a product or service
  • An economic issue that impacts trading
  • A natural disaster that can damage your business
  • A press story running against your organisation

Once this is done, it is also good practice to think about who in the senior leadership team could be the right person to support each scenario, e.g. the Health and Safety Director for a staff injury related issue.

Preparing your IC crisis templates

In the heat of a moment it can be a hard task to develop messages without some form of a starter for ten. Based on the scenarios your team have identified, why not set up some communications templates that support the channels you have available. Think about how these can stand out from day-to-day communications but still be branded. Of course, these templates will still need tweaking with more detail when the time comes, however that head start will save time and stress.

Testing your crisis comms plan

You’ll want to make sure that your crisis comms plan delivers ahead of the time it’s needed. If you’re already familiar with the channels you use in crisis, then testing them isn’t always necessary. However, if you haven’t used a radio system before, or perhaps you’ve no idea how the staff SMS process works, make sure to test these out before a crisis hits your organisation.

Seek permission from those in charge and plan a test series of comms to engage your target audience. For maximum engagement, you could plan to tie this in with a crisis comms process update to your organisation and seek feedback afterwards.

That’s it for now in our crisis comms series. If you want more detail on how to prepare your IC team for crisis and how AB can support you, get in touch. The more prepared you and your IC crisis team are, the better your organisation’s response will be if a crisis happens.

Contact Janice Fitzgerald for more details.