No. 2 Crisis Communication Mistake: Not Having a Plan or an Updated Plan

Paul Barton crisis communications

Not having a crisis communication plan is like not having a flashlight when the lights go out. Not having an up-to-date crisis communication plan is like reaching for a flashlight when the lights go out and discovering the batteries are dead.

Fumbling in the dark wastes precious time. And time can cost your organization lost sales and damage your brand reputation.

Burying your head in the sand is not a crisis communication strategy. You need a well-prepared and up-to-date plan.


A Well-Prepared Plan

In the rush and panic of a crisis, it’s hard to think clearly. That’s when a well-prepared crisis communication plan can really help you. Ideally, your plan was created when you were calm, cool and collected and had lots of time to think things through.

Write key messages, prepare templates and scripts, define roles and responsibilities, determine key contacts, assemble supplies, and locate meeting space.

Preparing a plan in advance also gives you time to have your corporate attorneys and your senior leadership team sign off on key messaging and your response plan. The review process will go much more smoothly than in the midst of a crisis and having your plan approved in advance will save you hours of time when a crisis does occur.


An Up-to-Date Plan

Many crisis communication plans were developed years ago, often by people who are no longer with your company. Names are outdated, phone numbers have changed, and some procedures no longer make sense.

What’s more, some plans were developed when social media wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. Many plans don’t contain a social media policy for employees or a plan to deal with negative social media from key influencers.

Remember that virtually every employee in your company and every customer who comes to your business has the ability to broadcast live video to the world via a smartphone.

Your plan needs to be ready for the Digital Age.


Be Prepared

No one wants a crisis to occur but when it does, and your organization is really counting on you, won’t it be nice to know that you can be at your best?

Take the crisis out of crisis communication. Have a plan. Be prepared. Be a hero.


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The No. 1 Crisis Communication Mistake: Not Responding Quickly Enough

Paul Barton CommunicationsLike a runaway train, a crisis can get out of control quickly. That’s always been true but never more so than it is right now because nearly everyone has the ability to broadcast live video to the world via his or her smartphone.

Perhaps the biggest mistake many organizations make when a crisis strikes is not getting out in front of the crisis and establishing themselves as the go-to information source right away. Time is of the essence and organizations need to communicate immediately with the news media, on social media, and to customers and their employees.

Too often an organization’s leadership team wants to wait for all the facts to be gathered and vetted before they communicate anything. This mistake can cost an organization in terms of credibility and brand reputation. If audiences don’t get the information they are seeking from an organization, they will go somewhere else. Once they’ve gone elsewhere, it may be difficult to get them back.

Do you want the news media or social media sources to tell your story? Do you want your own employees to find out information about their own company from an external source or, worse yet, from the rumor mill?

Controlling Rumors

If an organization doesn’t respond to a crisis quickly, speculation and rumors will rule the day.

When it comes to rumors, it’s wise to remember these two points:

  1. Rumors are created to fill information voids.
  2. A rumor without a leg to stand on will still find a way to get around.

To control speculation and stop rumors, you need to begin communicating even if all the facts aren’t known.

It’s OK to say, “We are still collecting all the facts, but we are aware of this incident. Our focus right now is making sure that all of our employees and customers are safe and sound. We promise to keep you updated as soon as we have all the facts. Here is what we know right now…”

Predicting, Preparing and Practicing for a Crisis

Predicting likely crisis scenarios; preparing for them by creating checklists, fact sheets, templates, key messages, and holding statements; and practicing your response will help you and your team to respond quickly and with high quality.

Having a well-prepared crisis communication plan, such as our Crisis Communication Toolkit, will keep you on track when your organization needs you the most.

Afterall, a speeding train is much easier to deal with when you’re in the driver’s seat. All aboard!



Top 10 Crisis Communication Mistakes to Avoid

Podcast: Taking the Crisis Out of Crisis Communication

Webinar Replay: Internal Communication in Times of Crisis

The Crisis Communication Toolkit

Crisis Communication Workshop: Be Your Best When Facing the Worst