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Critical communications in a crisis

Crisis contingency planning is something many businesses put off. It’s being brought into sharp focus now. Existing plans have been dusted down, and emergency meetings held to create plans where none existed. I hope you’ve thought things through at your business or in your department.

What happens if you’re 50% down on staff? What about 100%? What happens if you’re 50% down on orders? What happens if regular suppliers stop functioning?

You can’t move fast when these eventualities happen if you don’t have a plan in place.

Marketing staff who are in charge of company communications have a critical role to play here. How long does it take to get a message out? If an external organisation – such as a PR company – is part of your normal procedure, what will you do if they’re not available?

What we need to do now

  • List every potential bad scenario that you can think of, such as those above.
  • Have a written plan for coping with each one.
  • Have a plan for informing customers affected in each case.
  • Have a plan for informing staff affected in each case.
  • Ensure other people have access to, and can action, the plans.
  • Where the plans involve other organisations, have a further plan for coping if you don’t have their services.

These plans should include immediate ‘holding statements’ and where these should be disseminated (client database, social media, etc.). The statements should show empathy first, but list clear actions that are going to be taken. It’s essential to be realistic and above all, honest. You need to reassure the audience with the truth (people will never be more forgiving than they are at the moment). Failing to do so will create larger problems in the future.

The best communications in a crisis are fast, accurate and helpful. Having never faced a situation like this before, any business can be forgiven for not having had plans in place for the current potential eventualities. But if you haven’t got them, you need to create them in the next few days.