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Five Steps to Create a Solid Crisis Communications Plan

Posted: April 15, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Five Steps to Create a Solid Crisis Communications Plan

  1. Define Your Crisis.

A crisis is generally defined as a situation that will have a profound impact on your organization’s reputation or bottom line. It could be a natural disaster, an employee arrest or an embezzlement scandal. Once you reach a consensus on your meaning of a crisis, it will be much easier for your team to respond.

Beyond the obvious crisis scenarios, don’t lose sight of the smaller issues that could possibly turn into a crisis if not addressed. A good example would be a series of bad comments on social media about your organization. A timely response will help allay concerns and provide your candid perspective to the conversation. Your audience needs to know you are an active listener.

  1. Have a crisis team in place.

There should be a team tasked with managing crisis at your organization. The make up of the team will vary from one organization to another. Some key people to include would be someone on the executive team (Executive Director or Chairman of the Board), a communications staff member (this may also be the ED or Communications Director) and a member of your programs and volunteers team. This cross-section of people will help ensure the same key messages are shared with both internal and external audiences during an actual event.

  1. Build your messaging.

It’s hard to predict what awful situation could befall your organization, but it’s important to have those discussions. By considering worst-case scenarios, you can begin to build a framework for your organization’s response.

Make sure that during an actual crisis, you have all the facts you need before sharing a formal statement. If you still don’t have all the details, go ahead and post a general statement on your website or social media that explains you are aware of the situation and will share a detailed response soon.

  1. Provide updates when necessary.

The public and your internal audience should be updated on the crisis when you have new information to share. These updates should be short, precise details that add further context to the unfolding event. In most traditional crisis, the first 72 hours will be the most critical. As the face of the crisis evolves, you will have to continue to assess how often and how much information to share.

  1. Practice.

The crisis team should try and get together at least once a year to go over a crisis scenario. Run through a mock disaster. This is a good time to work out the kinks. Moreover, the team can collaborate under pressure and better understand the role they will play during a real incident. This time should also be used to update your crisis plan. Make sure contact information for all key staff and media is current.

Now that you have a good idea of what you need to create a crisis communications, listen to this Mopdog Speaks podcast and check out their crisis communications toolkit: How to Respond During a Crisis.


Resources used for this article:

Is Your Nonprofit Prepared for a Crisis? (Guidestar Blog)

Managing Crisis: Risk Management and Crisis Response Planning (Compassion Capital Fund, CCF, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)