Crafting a Plan for the Unplanned

Nobody expects a crisis to happen, but nearly every business, small or large, will suffer a crisis at one point or another. The best action plan for mitigating a crisis is to prepare before it ever occurs.

Crises can range from one negative comment on Facebook to a full-blow media takedown of your business, but RPR Firm, a boutique PR agency, alleges that no crisis is too big to come back from. The more you can anticipate problems in advance of them happening, the better and faster you’ll be able to respond.

What is PR’s role in a business crisis?

Your company will need all hands on deck when a crisis occurs. At least one person from every department should get involved to determine the source of the crisis and how to make things right.

Public relations (PR) is crucial in managing and mitigating business crises. In times of crisis, the PR team functions as a strategic communicator, working to maintain or repair a company’s reputation. PR professionals act as the bridge between the business and the public, conveying information transparently and effectively. Their role involves crafting messages that address the crisis, managing media relations, and coordinating with internal teams to ensure a cohesive, on-brand, and thorough response. By proactively addressing the crisis through strategic statements, PR helps businesses maintain public trust and navigate challenging situations.

What does crisis communications entail?

Crisis communication is the strategic communication management of a significant event that threatens an organization’s reputation or operations. It involves the development of a comprehensive plan to address the crisis, communicate key messages, and manage the flow of information. Internal or external PR teams typically handle these tasks.

Crisis communication strategies aim to control the narrative, provide accurate information, and minimize damage to the organization’s reputation. This discipline extends beyond traditional media relations to encompass digital and social media, recognizing the modern-day impact of these platforms on public perception. Effective crisis communications help organizations respond swiftly and decisively, mitigating potential harm and restoring confidence.

Typically, crisis communications entail simultaneously distributing a statement to the media and on owned channels like social media platforms and newsletters and making leadership available for quotes or comments on pieces covering the crisis story. Other proactive campaigns should pause, and in-person appearances should get rescheduled.

Why does every business need a crisis plan?

Every business needs a crisis plan as a proactive measure to safeguard its reputation. Crises can emerge unexpectedly, from product recalls and natural disasters to cybersecurity breaches and leadership controversies. A crisis plan enables businesses to respond promptly and to minimize the impact on their brand and stakeholders. 

A well-prepared crisis plan outlines communication strategies, identifies key spokespersons, and establishes protocols for information dissemination. It ensures that the organization can navigate the complexities of a crisis with resilience and transparency. Ultimately, a crisis plan is a vital component of risk management, demonstrating a commitment to accountability and protecting the long-term interests of the business.

How to build a crisis plan — a step-by-step guide

Here are a few tips for building a crisis plan from the ground up, as shared by Emily Reynolds-Bergh, Founder of RPR Firm. Emily and her team specialize in reputation management and have previously worked with national and global corporations to mitigate crises.

Crisis Communication
Photo Credit: fauxels | Pexels

Crafting your crisis team

You will want the following people on your crisis team.

PR Spokesperson/Communications Lead: A skilled communicator who effectively conveys messages to various stakeholders, manages media relations, and maintains transparency during the crisis. A high-ranking member of the PR team is a great choice.

CEO/Top Management: The top executive provides leadership, makes critical decisions, and demonstrates the organization’s commitment to resolving crises.

Legal Advisor: A legal expert who assesses legal implications, guides decision-making in compliance with regulations and minimizes potential risks.

Operations Manager: Responsible for coordinating the logistics of the crisis response, ensuring necessary actions are taken, and maintaining business continuity.

Human Resources Representative: Manages internal communication, addresses employee concerns, and ensures the well-being of employees during the crisis.

Depending on your organization’s size, consider adding other individuals as needed.

Steps to Create a Crisis Plan

Crisis Communication
Kampus Production | Pexels

By following these steps, you can create an adaptable crisis plan that enables a swift and coordinated response during challenging times.

Risk Assessment and Scenario Planning: Identify potential risks and crises that could impact the company, including internal and external factors. Consider conducting scenario planning exercises to simulate various crises.

Establish a Crisis Response Team: Refer to the list above to assemble a cross-functional crisis response team with clear roles and responsibilities.

Communication Protocols and Messaging: Develop a communication plan outlining how to disseminate information internally and externally. Craft key messages that align with the company’s values and designate a spokesperson.

Training and Simulation Exercises: Train the crisis response team on their roles and the overall crisis plan.

Continuous Review and Updating: Regularly review and update the crisis plan to ensure it remains relevant and aligned with the evolving nature of the business.

Getting Started with Crisis Communication

Whether your company is in the early planning stages or just coming out of crisis mode, now is the time to set yourself up for future success. Take these tips for crisis management to heart, and should you need help, contact RPR Firm for crisis communications planning assistance.