What’s in a Crisis Communications Plan?

I had the privilege of speaking to over 500 people at Harris & Co’s annual client conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre recently about “#metoo and the Media Spotlight” along with two of Harris’ outstanding lawyers and a seasoned and savvy reporter.

Among other topics, I spoke about the importance of developing and maintaining a crisis communications plan to guide an organization’s response when and if a crisis hits. The pace at which stories unfold in our interconnected and wired world is literally breath-taking, and a plan provides a roadmap and anchor in the midst of chaos.

I’ve created dozens of plans for clients. While there’s always some customization, a good Crisis Communications Plan will include:

1.  Crisis Response Principles – your organization’s our obligations and commitments in a crisis
2.  Crisis Response Team Roles and Responsibilities – description of the roles required, areas of responsibility and related tasks
3.  Crisis Response Team Members and 24/7 Contact Info – internal and consultant team members, phone numbers and emails
4.  Crisis Assessment Criteria and Risk Assessment Process – examples: reputational, physical or emotional harm, environmental harm threat level
5.  Key Audience, Communications Tools and Responsibilities – key constituent groups and how to reach each of them effectively 24/7
6.  Content Development and Approval Process – who will create communications and who needs to approve it, keeping tight time frames in mind
7.  Risk Assessment – the most damaging and most likely scenarios and threats
8.  Contingency Key Messages and Q&A – for the scenarios identified above

A Crisis Communications Plan should be a “grab and go” document, not a long tome or heavy binder. Everyone on the crisis response team should have a digital and print copy downloaded on their devices and available at home. And it’s a really good idea to hold a mock-crisis session to “test drive” your plan once it’s done and then at least annually after that.

Creating a plan doesn’t have to be a major undertaking, and it will help you feel more calm and confident if a crisis hits, knowing you don’t have to sweat the small stuff.