There are a number of ways that businesses can be proactive and minimize the risk of a crisis. This includes the implementation of ethical data collection services, as well as strategic data preparation to ensure sensitive information is organized and stored securely.
However, despite best efforts, unexpected events can happen, which is why it’s vital to have a crisis management communication plan to contain the situation.
What is a crisis management communication plan?
A crisis management communication plan provides a step-by-step guide on how to communicate essential messages from the business to important audiences during times of difficulty.
Whether a business has experienced a data breach or any other event, a strong communications plan helps to ensure that the right messages reach the right people, providing peace of mind that the business is aware of the problem, acknowledges the situation, and is taking appropriate measures to rectify the issue.
A crisis management communication plan is your way of maintaining the strength and dominance of your brand voice at a time when many others are trying to talk over you. It ensures the information that’s available during a crisis is accurate and comes from your mouth, reducing the risk of rumors and leaving you in control of your reputation.
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In order to reduce the risk of escalation, it is essential that key personnel are aware of their roles and responsibilities during a crisis. Many departments may be called upon to provide services during an event, including HR for employees and their families, sales teams for customers, purchasing departments for suppliers, media relations for news correspondents, and management for both stakeholders and regulatory agencies.
For larger organizations, it may also be beneficial to agree to a knowledge-sharing hierarchy, helping to keep sensitive information on a need-to-know basis. By ensuring that everyone knows their role within the plan, situations may be easier to manage.
2. Communications Template
Unexpected events are just that; unexpected. Therefore, it is not always possible to fully pre-prepare the message that will be communicated during a crisis. What businesses can do, however, is generate a template which can be used as a guide should a message need to be communicated in the future.
This template should include what level of information is to be shared with audiences and whether alternative communications will be delivered to audience segments. You may also consider what questions may be asked by the different segments, and draw up a template for an FAQ that can answer some of the most common questions expected to be received.
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3. Communications Channels
As well as deciding what level of information will be shared with audiences, it’s also important to determine how this information will be shared. While direct contact may be suitable with major shareholders, the fastest way to share a message with the masses is through the right digital communications channels.
This will vary between businesses, but many may find that social media channels or the organization’s own website are optimal platforms for getting a message across during a crisis. A good crisis management communication plan should identify the most relevant channels, ensuring that messages can be distributed and published quickly for immediate visibility.
4. Feedback Protocols
A crisis management communication plan not only features a step-by-step guide to handling a crisis but also how to recover from such an event. In terms of reputation management, it is essential that businesses understand how a crisis has affected their audience and brand perception.
It’s important to consider feedback protocols in your management communication plan, outlining what processes will be used to identify thoughts and opinions surrounding the event. Perhaps you’ll engage directly with those affected, or use social media listening to delve deeper into how a crisis has impacted core audiences, providing valuable, actionable insight into reputation management.
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