A crisis
communications plan is an essential working document that every business, brand
and organization must have. A tricky subject that individuals often don’t want
to talk about, the poor handling of a crisis can for some, lead to a very
public death.

Every
organization needs to have a crisis communications plan in place ahead of time.
The key is to be proactive and not reactive, identifying all possible crises
and be in a proper position to tackle them if they occur.

We are all
familiar with the many ‘PR fails’ and situations where a comprehensive and
better managed crisis communications plan could have helped organizations to
successfully deal with the public issues they faced. Who can forget the
Volkswagen gas emissions scandal, the crisis at FIFA and the Brian Williams
controversy in 2015?

It’s the
absolute aim of every PR professional and agency to fish out the potential
risks and protect their client from any fallout. Whether you’re writing a
crisis communications plan or looking to refresh your current document, these
are the important steps you should take.

Vet all potential problems: from the outset, strategize and list
all the potential risks that could occur. Sorting into categories (e.g.
political, economic, social, technological) can help with a comprehensive
breakdown of all hazards, as well as the compilation of an in-depth risk
register.

Situation analysis: you’ve identified the risks but what
about the specific situations they are linked to? Brainstorm each risky
situation, containing all relevant information to help manufacture suitable
responses.

Audience: it is important to identify who your audience
is and how you will reach them. Target groups such as your core customers,
employees, industry professionals, federal bodies and competitors.

Media: who will you use to spread your
response when a crisis occurs? Keep an up to date database of mainstream media,
local media, local radio and online outlet contacts. Also ensure your social
media channels are used as a transparent source to release a statement and
reply to any concerns.  

Time specific goals: in an age of social media and instant
reporting, organizations need to weave time specific goals and deadlines into
their crisis communications plan. Identify and agree on a realistic deadline to
respond to any crises, and the order in which a response will be issued.  

Costs: crises cost money and it’s important
to keep a budget aside for any potential emergency costs like extra staff or an
advertising campaign.

How has your
crisis communications plan saved your client from a PR disaster? Share your
thoughts with us on Twitter or Facebook!

Contributor: Valeria Velasco, Account
Executive at Marketing Maven