Business continuity plan, crisis management plan, IT disaster recovery plan… these are all valuable documents to have on hand as a company. But have you ever thought about a crisis communication plan (CCP)? In this article, we look at this type of plan, which is essential, whatever the emergency situation a company is facing. We’ll offer a few examples of what a crisis communication plan should contain, as well as some food for thought to help guide the development of your own CCP.
What is a crisis communication plan?
Aligned with the crisis management plan (CMP), a crisis communications plan enables you to effectively manage all communications when a disturbance occurs. First and foremost, it structures your approach to minimize the possibility of oversights and the reputational consequences for your organization. The roles and responsibilities of each person involved in communications are also clearly defined in this document.
The manager who is responsible for corporate communications is usually the person designated to manage and oversee the CCP. It is important to consider that certain actions must be carried out both upstream and downstream, i.e. the manager must be able to inform all stakeholders of what they need to do before a crisis occurs, and not just during one. Prevention and awareness-raising are the keys to successful communication during a crisis.
What should a PCC contain?
First of all, it’s crucial to state the objectives of the plan and how it’s going to work right from the start. No one will have the time to search through multiple pages for the information they need in the heat of the moment. That’s why it’s so valuable to structure the document in such a way as to obtain key information quickly, and to make it “action-oriented”.
The next step is to draw up a list of the emergency and disruption situations covered by the plan. These situations should be grouped by category (e.g. security, human resources, technology, reputation, etc.). This approach makes it possible to collate situations that are similar and whose response procedures are identical, with a few nuances. The advantage of this approach is that it reduces page volume and simplifies document use.
Roles and responsibilities should also be listed. Here are some examples you should include:
- The person in charge of the PCC and his/her substitute ;
- The person in charge of managing interviews and press conferences;
- The person responsible for drafting press releases;
- The person responsible for approving all communications;
- The person responsible for reconciling requests received and actions taken during the crisis;
- The spokespersons ;
In addition, the plan must include guidelines. These help to steer actions when a crisis strikes, and throughout its course. When drawing up your plan, ask yourself these questions, among others, to help you think things through:
- Where will the crisis communication team (the PCC team) meet to manage communications and report on the situation?
- What are the locations for press conferences and interviews?
- What equipment is needed to ensure an effective press conference (e.g. microphone, speakers, lectern, etc.)?
- What contact details do you have for stakeholders (including key media, those responsible for issuing press releases, etc.)?
- What do you do if employees are killed or injured? What is your confidentiality policy regarding such events?
- What information do you communicate with the media? When do you release this information?
- Do you need a specific crisis communications plan (e.g. to enhance your reputation following a crisis)?
Of course, this list of questions is by no means exhaustive, and is intended to give you food for thought and help you better understand the purpose of a PCC.
Spokespeople, key players
Spokespeople have important responsibilities when it comes to managing a crisis. They must be carefully chosen, as they will be at the forefront of communicating information and updates on the situation. To do this, they need to be well prepared for any eventuality.
Here are just a few tips to help you get the most out of your preparation:
- They must be briefed with clear guidelines and key messages to communicate;
- They should review the interviews given;
- Interviews and press briefings should preferably be recorded, enabling the company to readjust afterwards, depending on what was said;
- They should take part in mock press conferences and interviews periodically, so as to be well-equipped in the event of a real-life situation.
A few best practices
In addition to everything we’ve listed below, there are a number of best practices to keep in mind when developing a CCP for your company. To name but a few: conduct regular crisis communication exercises to maximize employee preparedness, keep the plan up to date on an annual basis, equip yourself with various communication tools, such as a mass notification system, message templates for different channels, and a Q&A (potential questions and answers).
You should also check whether your company’s communications need to be docked with an external organization (e.g. public bodies, parent company, owner, etc.) to have messages validated before they go out.
Finally, you may want to consider calling on a firm specialized in crisis communications to help you develop your strategy.
The crisis communications plan is emerging as an essential element within any company, complementing other resilience plans. Structured around the crisis management plan, the CCP enables communications to be managed effectively during an emergency, by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved, as well as the guidelines to be followed.
If you would like expert support in designing such a plan for your company, please contact us at [email protected]. We’ll be happy to help!