5 Steps to Creating an Effective Crisis Communications Plan
When a crisis occurs, it’s important to make sure the people in your circle are informed and up-to-date. But in an urgent situation, it can be difficult to pull together a communications plan in the moment. Here, with the help of HomeAdvisor VP of Corporate Communications Mallory Micetich, we’ve put together a few tips to help you get ahead of an issue, prevent interruption to your business and craft an effective response during troubling times.
#1 | Identify and list your stakeholders.
Create a list of all the stakeholders you may need or want to reach during a crisis. Whether you use an address book, a database or another system, it’s a good idea to list and include contact information for:
- Customers (potential, current and past)
- Mid-hire staffing candidates
- Your bank
- Those with financial stake in your company
- HomeAdvisor Customer Care
- If consumer demand dips as a result of a crisis, HomeAdvisor can supplement other sources of traffic to help you maintain a steady stream of customers.
#2 | Define and document preferred communications channels.
Decide which channels you will use to communicate with different stakeholders and document them in your plan. Micetich recommends choosing your communication channels based on the audience. For example, you’ll want to communicate quickly via text or phone call to stakeholders like employees, who will be immediately affected by the crisis, while social media or a website update may be the most effective way to communicate with customers.
Depending on the type and size of the audience you’re seeking to reach, any or all of these channels may be appropriate:
- Social media
- HomeAdvisor profile
- Your company website
- Local news organizations
You may also want to create a back-up plan for communicating with critical stakeholders in case internet or phone lines are down.
#3 | Assign a communications lead.
Appoint a lead, whether it’s yourself or a trusted employee, to act as your company’s spokesperson and take charge of emergency communications as events unfold.
Who you choose to be your communications lead matters less than everyone knowing that person is the lead, says Micetich. But you’ll want to choose an effective communicator who has insight into different aspects of your business. And you’ll also want to ensure that your lead has the ability, autonomy and authority to implement your crisis communications plan and see it through.
Confirming a lead communicator as a part of your planning efforts will streamline communications and keep your business running free of damaging interruptions and missteps.
#4 | Lay the groundwork for ongoing communications.
Every situation is different, and the information you share with your audience will likely change as a crisis unfolds. However, outlining opportunities for outreach in your communications plan can save you time and keep your efforts focused during a crisis. Here are a few things you might want to communicate each step of the way:
Before a crisis:
If you’re aware of an impending problem before it strikes, like a hail storm or hurricane, you can send information and resources to help your employees and customers stay safe and prepare for what’s to come. You can also communicate how you’ll be handling things and provide your contact information, as well as relevant details regarding possible delays or changed hours.
Immediately after a crisis occurs:
Let your stakeholders know that you are aware of the ongoing situation and inform them of any immediate steps you are taking, either within your business or your community, to respond. If possible, let people know when they can next expect to hear from you and inform them of any next steps or developments you are trying to accomplish before then.
Throughout a crisis:
Regularly inform your audience about the status of your business, operating hours, contact information and new developments — keeping your messaging positive and transparent throughout. Depending on the volume of inquiries you’re receiving, it may be helpful to create a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on your website or social media channels. Share any relief efforts that your business is participating in and invite your audience to participate as appropriate.
During the recovery process:
Thank your customers for their continued support throughout this event and inform them when you expect to resume normal business operations. If your business has made permanent changes as a result of the crisis, be sure to let your stakeholders know.
#5 | Be mindful about your messaging (and maybe include a few good examples or templates in your plan).
Knowing how to communicate during a crisis can be tricky, and striking the right tone is hard to do. But word choice is important, and dedicating a section to messaging in your crisis communications plan can alleviate some of the pressure when the time comes to act.
“During and after crisis, people are a bit more elevated in their level of concern, care, scrutiny and criticism.” says Micetich. She suggests making sure that your communication is helpful, not distracting — and definitely not causing risk to your business. When in doubt, look to be as empathetic as possible in your communications with all of your stakeholders. And always put yourself in their shoes.
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