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In Case of Emergency: Have a Crisis Communications Plan

Communications, KAI Partners, Risk Assessment, Sacramento, Strategic Plan

By Stephen Alfano, PMP®, CSM, Prosci 

There is no sure-fire way of predicting when (or how) a crisis will occur in an organization or a business environment. Crises, by their very nature, are all too often unpredictable and all-consuming events. 

However, with the practice of risk management, organizations and business leaders can assess potential crises and quantify their ensuing impact. More important, they can use the assessments to create mitigation plans to prepare for potential emergencies. 

One such mitigation plan is preparing a crisis communications plan. 

A crisis communications plan provides a framework for timely and clear messaging from when the crisis hits through its evolution. A crisis communications plan often extends well beyond the end of the crisis to ensure that everything and everyone is on the same page or narrative. Like most proactive business management strategies, crisis communications plans fall into categories that mirror the most critical operations and functional areas.

Here are the top five crisis communications plans and what they aim to mitigate.

  • Financial Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding revenue loss or asset devaluation caused by external factors (like decreased customer demand) or internal factors (like poor purchasing decisions).
  • Personnel Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding either illegal or unethical behaviors of staff or stakeholders which could damage the organization’s reputation. 
  • Organizational Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding negative press coverage or media attention when an organization mistreats or manipulates customers in pursuit of profits or market data.
  • Technological Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding technology failures, such as a customer-facing website crashing or errors in codes that disable business processes and limit or shut down operations. 
  • Environmental Crisis Communications Plan: This plan focuses on controlling the narrative surrounding operations disruptions ranging from one-time or temporary delays or closures (like a power outage or gas leak) to sustained, long-term delays or closures (like a plant shutdown or a devastating hurricane). 

Most Crisis Communications Plans have the same core phases and steps, including:

Pre-crises Phase 

Step 1: Identify Potential Crises Risk

Step 2: Designate and Educate Potential Crises Risk Owners and Spokespeople

Step 3: Standup Notifications and Monitoring Systems

Step 4: Test Response Regularly

Post-crises Phase

Step 5: Assess the Situation

Step 6: Create and Rollout Key Messaging

Step 7: Wind down/Wrap up Response as Quickly as Possible

Step 8: Perform Postmortem of Response Steps

Step 9: Revise Plans with Postmortem Insight

For more insight into Crisis Communications, check out these links:

Your Survival Guide to Crisis Communication – HubSpot

3 Best Practices For An Effective Response Plan – Business 2 Community

Crisis Management: Communications Best Practices – Department of Energy

If you need additional information or support creating crisis communications plans explicitly designed to fit your organization or business, contact us to learn more! We would love to help!

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is an Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has over 30 years of experience in leading and managing initiatives for both private and public-sector clients. His résumé includes providing both new business and business process improvement services to Apple, American Express, AT&T, California Department of Transportation, Chevron, Entergy, Levi Strauss & Co., Louisiana Office of Tourism, Mattel, Microsoft, Novell, SONY, Sutter Health, and Wells Fargo. Stephen currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing change management and communications expertise and project management support services on several active contracts.