Every Organization Needs a Crisis Communications Plan to Prepare for the Worse
In a matter of a few weeks, millions of people and various organizations and businesses, as well as cities and states, have bear witness to growing crises – natural or manmade disasters – that have impacted lives and caused billions of dollars in damages.
Lahaina suffered significant wildfires, which destroyed homes and businesses, and killed more than 100 people. State officials were warned of the potential wildfire risks, but the city was left unprepared.
Severing flooding has killed one and stranded more than 70,000 people at Burning Man in Nevada, and organizers told attendees to “hunker down” and “conserve food and water” until the roads and airport are open.
The severe damage from Hurricane Idalia is still being assessed, but costs are estimated at around $10 billion, with economic impact adding another $10 billion, making it 2023’s costliest climate-related disaster.
Those are just a few of the natural disasters in recent weeks. As for manmade crises they have ranged from UCF football posting to social media a comment in poor taste as the team beat Kent State, to a racist attack at a Dollar General store that killed three people.
Now, this isn’t to make it sound like the world is only full of doom and gloom – far from it. But there is more happening in the world today, at a faster pace, and people often think “it will never happen to me.”
As an unfortunate result, organizations and the people who work for them, are often left without the proper knowledge, experience, resources and tools to respond to a crisis (whatever that crisis might be).
This is why every business, non-profit, school, association and more should establish a crisis response plan that lays out potential issues and threats, how they should be responded to, and how they should be communicated to stakeholders.
One unfortunate example to highlight is an office or school shooting scenario. The chances of being involved in a shooting are relatively low (though significantly higher in the U.S. when compared to other countries), but not as low as winning the lottery.
The point is however, that no one can predict if an active shooter scenario will take place in their building or school or at an event, but should one happen, people should be prepared to respond and follow the guidelines for communications in the crisis response plan when everyone is safe and able to do so.
Regardless of the crisis, preparation and establishing a crisis communications plan may include:
- Reviewing any and all potential crisis scenarios,
- Development of talking points and key messages for each scenario,
- Creation of template press releases that offer immediate, short- and long-term information,
- Identification of a potential spokesperson or spokespersons, as well as subject matter experts,
- Media trainings in which staff take part in mock scenarios and Q&A media interviews.
At a time when so much is going on, it is easy to put off something so intangible, like a crisis communications response plan.
Xenophon has decades of experience working with clients to establish proper protocols and guidelines for clients. For more, please visit Xenophon’s crisis communications services.