It is a sunny morning. You are checking email at your desk, enjoying a latte, when suddenly, you learn that your organization is in the middle of a crisis! Not to panic. You calmly reach for your crisis communications plan to help you move forward. What?? No crisis communications plan? Let’s take care of that!
What’s a crisis? It is an event or circumstance that can cast your organization in a negative light in your community. It might be short lived or stress your organization for months. By creating a crisis communications plan in advance, you can navigate the situation in an undistracted and timely manner. All of the critical information will already be in one place so that you are not frantically searching for it during the actual event.
What should be in your crisis communications plan?
1. Designation of your organization’s spokesperson. The spokesperson must be calm, articulate, and comfortable in front of an audience. The spokesperson must be able to stay on message and handle questions in a logical way when asked by your organization’s constituents, board members, and/or media. That might be you or it might be an employee or it might be a board member. Whoever is chosen, becomes the sole voice of your organization throughout the crisis. Others in the organization know this and do not comment.
2. Prepared materials about your organization. This should include basic information about your organization, your mission, your constituencies, your services, etc. This information should be routinely updated so that you are prepared when a crisis occurs.
3. General statements of concern. Think of possible crises that might impact your organization and draft initial statements of concern for each potential scenario. Different crises require different responses. Your response regarding a fire would be very different than your response regarding the death of your board chair. Having these drafted in advance enables your spokesperson to be better prepared for questions.
4. A crisis contact sheet. Prepare a list of names and contact information for the critical people who must be contacted if a crisis occurs. Contact information should include phone numbers for 24/7 communication and email. Prioritize those individuals who must be contacted first, such as your spokesperson (if not you), board chair, attorney, insurance agent. Your second tier of contacts might include your employees, volunteers, vendors, etc. It is essential that the information on the contact sheet is current so that valuable time is not expended finding phone numbers and emails during the crisis.
Have you had to deal with a crisis within your organization? Were you prepared?? Having a pre-written crisis communications plan will help you weather the storm!