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Crisis Communication 101

The word “unprecedented” has become part of our vernacular recently as COVID-19 becomes even more of a reality.

From social distancing to quarantining, mandatory business closures and city and county-wide stay at home and shelter at home orders, we’re in crisis mode.

The COVID-19 pandemic response strategy and active threat response plans have one very clear thing in common: It’s more important now than ever to get your messaging right.

In both situations, businesses, schools, and communities need to implement crisis communication strategies and emergency action plans.

Whether you’ve got a plan that might need some revising for the current COVID-19 crisis, or you’ve never created a crisis communication plan, below are some tips for effective crisis communication.

First things first - what exactly is a crisis communication plan?

A set of guidelines used to prepare a business for an emergency or expected event, crisis communication plans focus on the company's response, and how it will communicate with its stakeholders. Steps are outlined to ensure information reaches employees, partners, customers, media, the general public, and any other valuable stakeholders.

Most importantly, these plans guarantee a quick release of information, as well as a consistent message on all company platforms.

When it comes to creating your plan...

Be proactive

Anticipate every impactful issue, whether it’s within your control (pandemic) or not (faulty product, team issue etc.)

Hold a meeting with your senior team to brainstorm every possible emergency or major issue that could arise for your business. A product might fail unexpectedly. An executive might be fired. A tornado or hurricane might destroy an office building. Every one of these scenarios, and any others you and your team could possible imagine, should have a plan attached to it

Identify stakeholders

Who could be impacted by any of the crises you brainstormed in step one?

It's important to know who your crisis communications plan is designed for. Outline a list of everyone you'd want to keep informed about the crisis.

Employees, customers and users, partners, investors, media outlets, the government, and the general public. Your plan should also include contact info for each of these groups, and the medium in which you’ll communicate to them. (Email, phone, bulletin, social media, etc.)

Identify your crisis communications team

This team will probably include your CEO, COO, HR director, PR/communications director, internal and external legal counsel, department directors and senior-level vice presidents.

This is your core team who establishes a war room and decides what messages are distributed, how, and when. Communication during a crisis should be frequent and clear. Therefore your communications team should be readily available to support any and all updates as a situation unfolds.

It’s also important to establish a hierarchy of communication outlining how information should be shared within the company and by who. That way, no matter who notices the crisis emerging, they'll know who to go to first.

Here are some things to do when a crisis hits

Create a holding statement and fact sheet

Write a few sentences to send to employees, customers, and any other stakeholders you identified as soon as a crisis strikes, even before you have all the details. Acknowledge that you realize something has or is about to happen and that you’re taking all the necessary steps to acquire information and make decisions.

Someone on your team should also be in charge of creating fact sheets about the crisis to prevent rumors or misinterpretations.

Social media and email are critical

Proactive communication is essential during a crisis. Offer as much transparency as possible with your audience, customers, and the general public through social media and email marketing. Your communications team should prepare easily-shareable materials with accurate and relevant information about the crisis.

Your team should also be focused on monitored social media and incoming emails during the time of a crisis. Negative messages should be dealt with immediately and with consistency.

Above all - show compassion

Yes, you need to act swiftly. But you need to do so with empathy. Show compassion for those affected. It’s compassion, empathy, heart and connection that will get us through any crisis.

Lockdown International is dedicated to bringing a variety of training programs, security products, educational tools, and proactive measures to businesses, schools, and other communities.

We partner with clients to create and implement custom proactive solutions based on their risk assessment. To learn more, please visit our Instructor Course.

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