If you don’t have a crisis communications plan, there’s no better time than the present to start. And if you have one, today is the day that you should dust it off and revise it!
- Consider the various types of crises you may encounter. This might include: natural or man made disasters affecting the community you serve, or perhaps where your employees live; political or legislative changes that position your organization in a negative light; a scandal from an employee, or even a board member or donor; or spam or other fishing that either crashes your systems, wipes your data, or releases sensitive data publicly.
- Authorized communicator. A back up. And another one. Keep in mind that a disaster may mean that all the individuals you normally rely on might not be accessible or may need to be with their families. Accordingly, a clear hierarchy of decision makers should also be included in case your typical leadership is unavailable. Be clear on who speaks internally and who externally. Who are the constituents you must inform and keep abreast as the situation develops? Who from your organization is trained to deal with the media and can speak without being prepped with speaking points? Is this your CEO or Board Chair? Or perhaps is it a more junior member of the team?
- Internal communications and continuity plan. If your email server is down, how will you get in touch with everyone in your organization? Do you have emergency contacts for all of your employees? What about the volunteers? Moreover, how, and when, will your organization pick back up after a crisis? What happens when the crisis affects the service need or industry you are in? If you are updating a current plan, this might include a reflection of utilizing Facebook’s Safe and Well app to ensure your team is accounted for.
- Sample language for all anticipated crises. This will include various positions, speaking points, and media releases that can quickly be tailored and released. Having this means that you have already had the discussions with key leadership about how you’ll respond in crisis and saves valuable time in the midst of one, particularly when emotions or egos are involved. If you are updating your current plan, this might include crafting tweet-able messages given the prominence of social media in communicating with urgency.
- Additional resources beyond the plan. This might include contacts at partner organizations or even ‘competitors’ who may want to come together and address a crisis as an industry. And might also include vendors and backup vendors that can help with service continuity for your building, technology, or data, for example. It could also include a professional crisis management firm that you have spoken with but aren’t yet a client of, in case a crises ever seems to grow beyond what can be managed internally.
- A revision protocol. Agree on how often you will revisit this plan and calendar that timeframe. We’ve seen one too many plans that all feature the role of one employee as the lead communicator and decision maker who has since left the organization years prior.
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