Is your crisis communications plan ready to go?

The Nashville Business Journal recently ran a guest blog from Lauren on crisis communications. Enjoy!


You know the drill. It’s the start of a new year. The entire team is moving full speed ahead on new initiatives, presumably ones that involve your marketing plan. Social media! Media tours! Product launches! It’s all very exciting, and kudos to you for being proactive with your marketing efforts. Have you thought about your crisis communications plan, though? While admittedly less sexy than launching a new product, this key component is critical to have in place.

An astounding amount of businesses don’t have a crisis communications plan. Nobody expects to get a call that puts your company’s future in jeopardy. But things go wrong, incorrect information can go viral and the reputation of your brand can be at risk in a matter of minutes.

The steps to a crisis communications plan are not difficult, but they do require advance planning. I like to think of it as an insurance policy. I hope you’ll never use it, but you’ll sleep better knowing it’s there.

Here are some immediate steps you can take as a starting point to ensure continued integrity and protect your business in a time of crisis.

Establish the crisis management team.

In addition to the CEO, this should include key people from your PR team, legal counsel and human resources. Determine a spokesperson and a back-up, and make sure they’re media trained. Your first experience in front of a live TV camera does not need to be in a time of crisis.

Talk about what types of situations would threaten your organization.

What are your risk factors? This will vary by organization and there will likely be several. Discuss how you would respond. Write it down and develop messaging while you are thinking clearly. This will give you a much-appreciated headstart during a crisis.

Identify your stakeholders – and the best way to get in front of them.

This could include employees, your board, customers, suppliers, media outlets and local government officials. It’s not enough to just know who they are. How will you reach them? Who warrants a personal phone call – and from which member of the crisis team? Is e-mail the best way to reach your customers?

Remember, a plan will only work if it is current. Task someone on your team with reviewing this at least quarterly and addressing any necessary changes, such as replacing a member of the crisis management team that has left the company.