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Do You Actually Use Your Crisis Communication Plan?

Paul Barton Crisis Communications

When a crisis strikes, how effective are those carefully crafted crisis communication plans? That question came up in independent conversations I’ve had over the past several months with several well-respected corporate communications professionals.

Following are paraphrased and combined summaries of the varied answers I heard.

Answer #1: When you’re in the midst of a crisis, the last thing you want to do is pick up some 200-page document. There’s no time for that. The training, the practice and the drills you do ahead of time are what helps. The written plan may assist in the drills but it is of little value in the midst of an actual crisis.

Answer #2: The plans themselves are of little value in the midst of a crisis, but the process of putting together the plan is where the value lies. The planning process will uncover the holes in your crisis response. The planning process will help you think through what all needs to be done. Thinking everything through when things are calm will help you react when everything is coming down on you. As Dwight Eisenhower once said: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

Answer #3: If they are done right, plans are of great value in a crisis. It’s hard to think straight when all hell is breaking loose. Good plans have checklists that can be used during a crisis so things don’t get overlooked and left undone. Some companies create a plan for each team member that is customized to their role. When a crisis hits, each member of the crisis team grabs his or her book and starts working their way through their checklists. Also, having pre-approved templates and messages helps speed the response time.

What Say You?

So, what do you think? Which answer matches your past experiences? Are plans worth the paper they are written on? Is the planning process the real value? Are some plans made for action and others made to rest on a bookshelf? Do you use your plan? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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

The No. 1 Crisis Communication Mistake: Waiting Too Long to Respond

Top 10 Crisis Communication Mistakes to Avoid


Related Outside Links

Podcast: Taking the Crisis Out of Crisis Communication

Webinar Replay: Internal Communication in Times of Crisis

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.


Related Posts

The No. 1 Crisis Communication Mistake

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