March 1, 2012

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Article

Worst-Case Scenario

A Communications Plan Can Avert Disaster

Peri Kinder

March 1, 2012

“Our safety statistics are better than most other businesses in the industry because we have processes and procedures in place to make sure our employees are safe,” Bennett says. “I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of a crisis communications plan and how important it is to your company and stakeholders.”

Kennecott practices its crisis plan several times a year and every key person in the plan is given a binder that details specific tasks that need to be done when responding to an emergency. The plan is constantly updated and changed as new situations come up or when a weakness in the plan is exposed.

Debriefing after each drill allows people on the crisis team to talk about what went well or what needs improvement. They examine every possibility for every disaster making sure they keep the ability to communicate both internally and externally. Bennett says planning multiple communication formats could make the difference in a crisis. If cell towers are flooded with calls, can employees still communicate? If the internet goes down, can the company still get information to the public and media?

“A smooth plan doesn’t just happen overnight, the plan is re-worked and adapted continually,” Bennett says.

Saving Face
The larger the company, the more it makes sense to invest in crisis communications training and planning. It might cost a little up front, but a crisis handled improperly could cost a company thousands of dollars—and its reputation

“With correct handling, a company’s reputation is enhanced. Everyone understands that things go wrong and, if you do it right, you’ll come out ahead,” Ewing says. “It’s one of those fields that people don’t think about. No one is mandating a crisis communication plan but if you’re serious about your business, developing a plan is vital.”

 

10 Steps to an Effective Crisis Communications Plan:

  1. Consult a professional or send employees for crisis training.
  2. Set time aside to create a plan—at least one day.
  3. Create a list of worst-case scenarios for your business and industry.
  4. Create a list of second-worst-case scenarios (bad customer service, social media barrage, etc.).
  5. Develop an empathetic message for each scenario.
  6. Choose a spokesperson.
  7. Determine how information will be distributed (website, press conference, media release, etc.).
  8. Put the plan on paper. Make sure every person involved has a copy.
  9. Practice. Look for weak links in the communications chain.
  10. Practice again, adapting the plan when necessary.
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