10 Best Practices for a Business Crisis Communication Plan

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As the owner of a company, it is your responsibility to manage and make the moves to be profitable. Occasionally, a business may run into crisis. These can come unexpectedly and produce sometimes-immense damage to your reputation. This is where a crisis communication plan comes in handy.

In the face of a high-pressure crisis, it’s important to have a crisis communication plan. There are hundreds of examples out there, usually stemming from moves made out of panic. A crisis communication plan is a well thought out strategy that identifies a crisis management team. When a crisis occurs, the crisis communication plan takes effect and protocols are put in place.

Below are ten best practices to develop a business crisis communication plan:

1. Your Crisis Management Team

First of all, you need to put together a competent team to work on your crisis communication plan. Crisis response teams pull people from various departments. You want a leader, of course, however you will also want team members from IT, HR, accounting, marketing communications, risk management, and your legal team.

You want individuals who can problem-solve, who are organized, who can work together, and who are going to make the critical decisions you need to be made in support of your brand.

2. Crises Aren’t Always PR-Driven

Although many crises occur around marketing, social media, public perception, and in public relations, not all that comes will be related to this. Your crisis communication plan should account for natural disasters affecting operations or profitability. There may be technology issues such as cybercrime, broken machinery or a fire at an operating plant. There may also be conflicts of interests in business relationships you maintain are all crises worth considering for one’s crisis communication plan.

3. New Information Comes to Light

A crisis is often not one-and-done. It does not follow a pattern of ‘event’ and then ‘response’. Ongoing management will be required as new information is released, details emerge, and responses from other actors may mean having to change your approach to handling a crisis. For this reason, you don’t want to make promises as a brand that you can’t keep or make any inaccurate statements.

4. Crises Happen and You Must Be Ready

Even to the most careful of businesses, crises can come along. It can be as straightforward as a social media post that has mistakenly caused offence or something much more damaging a la products malfunctioning, a security breach, a bad review that has gone viral, or a major event. When crisis occurs, a business has to respond in a timely manner with confidence and respect.

5. Silence Gives Up Your Ability For Control

When a crisis emerges and you don’t respond quickly, that silence gives others the power to create and guide conversation around your brand. This isn’t the type of control you want to give away. Silence is not a positive thing for your brand. If there’s a negative perception of your organization, the only way to change that will be through the protocols indicated in your crisis communication plan and the subsequent moves you make.

6. A Playbook of Likely Crisis Scenarios

An in-depth crisis communication plan goes into various likely crisis scenarios, using them as simulations for what’s expected from management as a response. Be specific with your brand’s response as defined in your plan. You may be facing reputation issues, a negative financial impact, and long-term damage to operations. Not every crisis is wholly unexpected, with a playbook of potential situations that could unfold.

7. Your Employees Will Be Waiting

Those who work under your brand name will be waiting for your response when crisis occurs. Defining how you respond in a crisis communication plan should be done by your company culture. When there’s silence and no response, it communicates a lack of care and this is something employees notice. When customers come looking for answers, your employees are your representation and they must be aware of your brand’s stance on the given crisis.

8. When You’re Wrong, You’re Wrong

Apologizing is a healthy communication strategy to take when a crisis has unearthed you’re wrong or have done something wrong. Refusing to apologize when you’ve made a mistake creates an appearance of aloofness, insensitivity, and ignorance. Brands are made of human beings and we all make mistakes. Own up to them if need be and do so in a manner that is comprehensive, clear, and loud

9. Over-Communication is Usually A Good Thing

In cases of ongoing crises, over-communication is a positive response. Even if you don’t have answers or a recommended way forward, saying something is better than saying nothing. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been giving daily addresses. Even on days when there hasn’t been much to say, he still comes out, answers questions, and has kept the public informed. It’s been a great strategy at managing an unexpected crisis.

10. There’s No Excuse to Not Have a Crisis Plan

Enough brands have gone through their own crises that, at this point, there aren’t any excuses. Every organization should have a confident crisis communication plan drawn up. If you choose not to and attempt to manage a crisis without thinking it through, you very well may end up making your crisis worse.

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