You can’t come up with a plan in midst of disaster or crisis. Prepare your organization by taking the following steps:
- Designate a spokesperson and a media contact now. Even if the incident is not extreme and you don’t end up needing a spokesperson, you will still need someone available to give updates.
- Establish a rapid response team and designate your team leader. This team must involve the executive level, but not just that. PR & legal should always be on the team. Include someone from your safety department – they had a hand in creating your disaster response plan and know it well.
- Establish an emergency communications channel. This will serve as a mechanism to get your team together. This could be a conference call, text thread, or face-to-face meeting.
- Develop an emergency call/text/email list. Consider who should be included - employees, vendors, clients, the public in general? What avenues will be used to communicate?
- Develop a comprehensive media and local official contact list.
- Identify other key audiences and how you will communicate with them.
- Draft general talking points for communication with key publics.
When disaster strikes, you need to get your team together as fast as you can. Prepare and distribute information as quickly as possible. Make sure you are providing the who, what, where, when, why, and how. These are the big questions to ask, and they should be asked continually throughout the crisis.
Step 1: Notify and mobilize the rapid response team.
Step 2: Prepare and distribute an agenda.
- Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
- Who was involved? To make sure you have all the facts, start fact finding immediately.
- Is anyone hurt? If the answer is yes, this changes things significantly. There is a big difference in the types of communication for a business disruption versus people affected.
- What’s the level of inconvenience – and for how long? Get your arms around the disaster.
Your initial gathering, however it needs to happen, is intended to get everyone together and go over these critical items:
- Bring the team up to speed on the crisis. You need to react with a certain level of urgency because if you don’t, people will put out their own version of the situation.
- Establish a desired outcome or outcomes.
- Outline the initial response to the issue.
- Assign specific tasks to individual rapid response team members – writer, media monitor, media contact, crisis manager, crisis communications manager, legal review.
- Determine how best to keep the rapid response team updated.
- Make sure all parties have a consistent message.
At end of the day, you need to evaluate your crisis communications. Look back and ask: how well did we do? Your actions won’t be perfect. You will have areas to improve on. Be real and take time to identify those areas so you can make them part of your plan for the next crisis.
Step 1: Evaluate your response. Consider the following questions.
- How prepared were we for the crisis?
- How timely was our response?
- Was media coverage balanced and accurate? How did we do on social media?
- Was our message included in media coverage and on social media?
- How responsive and nimble was our rapid response team?
- Did rapid response team members deliver the message clearly and accurately?
Step 2: Update planning materials based on evaluation.
Disaster communication will happen with or without you. Don’t let it happen without you. Armed with a quality plan, your company will be ready for prompt execution. And when you’re in control, the risk of damaging your brand in the face of a crisis is significantly decreased.