Every time I turn on the TV and radio or look at my mobile there is more news about Coronavirus or COVID19 as it is officially known. We’re now seeing organisations swiftly prepare crisis communications plans and how they will deal with it should an outbreak affect them. While large organisations have whole departments that deal with these types of scenarios it did get me thinking.
No-one really knows whether the impact of COVID19 has peaked or if the worse is yet to come but fingers crossed it’s the former. I know it’s certainly impacting business as a whole with events being cancelled and launches being postponed often due to people’s reluctance to travel. One point that it does raise, though, is the need to be prepared. You need to know how to respond for crises in general happening particularly when it comes to communication. So my question to you is how is your crisis communications plan shaping up?
What is a crisis in communications terms?
A crisis affecting an organisation or business could take many different forms including a controversial company development, an online or digital security failure, negative media coverage, a danger to product safety or even criminal action. According to a recent PWC report nearly 7 in 10 (69%) business leaders have experienced at least one corporate crisis in the last 5 years — with the average number of crises experienced being 3. So, it’s clear that the probability is quite high which is why having a plan in place, whatever the size of your organisation, is important should the worse happen.
What should a Crisis Communications plan contain?
Now a crisis comms document is a pretty hefty task so I’m not giving you a template but I am providing some pointers on what you can do to get the basics in place:
1. Who’s in charge?
Pre-appoint a head of crisis communications along with a deputy as back-up cover. This person should be in charge of all communication and any approvals relating to the crisis.
Appoint only media-trained spokespeople to deal with media enquiries.
3. Incoming comms
Ensure any incoming enquiries on the crisis are routed to the appropriate person and responded to as a priority.
Create a holding statement to be used for both media and any other inbound enquiries which is short and concise. It must be updated as the crisis unfolds. Ensure that the holding statement is available on your website and social media channels.
Ensure that you communicate the situation to your customers. You should tell them whether they need to take any appropriate steps to resolve the problem. Provide contact information.
Create and question and answer document template and ensure that it includes every possible question you might receive with a response. Be sure to update this with new information as required.
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of crisis communications actions to employ should the worse occur. Its aim is to get you thinking on how you might prepare (if you haven’t already) and what you need to consider. Good luck and I truly hope the worse doesn’t happen but remember being prepared is the holy grail in crisis communications.