As a leading crisis communications firm, we see preparation as one of the most helpful — but often underutilized — steps for crisis communications and reputation management. Preparing thoughtfully for a crisis requires dedicating time and resources up front and confronting the difficult reality that bad things happen even to good organizations.
But once a crisis does hit — and chances are one will — the time and resources spent up front are a fraction of what it would take to mend a damaged reputation. Having a crisis communications plan in hand will allow you to respond in the thoughtful, methodical manner in which the plan was originally crafted, versus corralling a last-minute team and cobbling together a hasty response on the fly.
While plans can vary in scope and content, our favored approach is to develop a tailored crisis communications playbook that provides the framework for four critical steps in crisis preparation:
Step 1. Assemble a crisis communications team, assign team member roles and designate responsibilities. Even a basic step like having all of the team’s contact information in the same location can be enormously helpful when a crisis hits. (In a later post, we’ll discuss how to structure a crisis communications team and who at the organization should be involved.)
Step 2. Categorize crisis events, with individualized considerations and statement outlines. Survey multiple departments to ask what keeps them up at night, so you have a holistic picture of the company’s vulnerabilities.
Step 3. Outline your response steps, including a timeline on when to announce internally and prerequisites for going public. Among these prerequisites may be state-specific notification requirements, media interest or the need to inform affected family members.
Step 4. Test the plan and mark when revisions are made. Run a tabletop exercise with the crisis communications team so gaps are identified precrisis and everyone knows what their roles are.
Over the month of March the Infinite Global PR Crisis Team will be writing and speaking on a variety of crisis communications–related issues, from IT / breach response to harassment and workplace issues.
To begin the month we offer an infographic, “4 Communications Steps to Take Before a Crisis Hits,” which we hope is helpful for teams working to prepare their organizations to weather crisis situations.
If you’re interested in learning more about our crisis communications preparation and response services, we encourage you to sign up for our quarterly newsletter below.
Kelsey Eidbo is a Senior Client Supervisor based in Infinite Global's San Francisco office. As one of Infinite Global’s crisis communications professionals, Kelsey helps firms create proactive crisis communications plans to mitigate reputational risk and advises on communications strategies in response to crisis situations.