Communication Plan

Crisis Communication Plan
Scholars and practitioners alike stress the importance of planning ahead and being prepared for
potential crises before they occur. In this assignment, each student will select a company and
develop a crisis communication plan based on that company, its industry, culture, potential risks,
stakeholders, etc. The company selected can be a current or recent employer, or a
company/nonprofit of choice as long as it is large enough to experience a crisis that would
impact stakeholders. Once you select the company, analyse a crisis situation and then prepare a
message action plan (MAP). This MAP should define the different stakeholder groups to be
addressed, the communication goals for each of these target groups, the preferred channel for
each communication, and who within the organization will be responsible for delivering each of
these messages. You will submit your paper to the dropbox link within blackboard.
When a crisis situation develops, time is of the essence. There’s a saying: “If you’re not quick,
you’re not relevant.” That’s why companies need to have a crisis communication plan in place
BEFORE a potentially hazardous situation arises. But, what does that mean? What elements
should be included in your crisis plan? While there’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter” crisis
plan, the following information will help your company begin assembling an effective plan. This
assignment does not have a page requirement, rather that you create a well thought out plan
addressing each of the 5 steps below. (See the Bass Pro Shops Crisis Communication Plan in
Blackboard for reference. Your plan does not need to be this detailed, this is only for you to
Step 1: Establish the Crisis Team.
Before a crisis strikes, think through who needs to have a seat at the table. Consider ALL the
aspects of your company — management, operations, internal (including labor relations in union
environments) and external communication, customer service, legal. The crisis team could look
like this: President of the company, head of communication, legal counsel and heads of the
department(s) impacted by the crisis. During the crisis, this team bears the responsibility for
making decisions and spearheading communication. In the plan document, include each
individual’s name, title, home phone, cell phone and other pertinent contact details.
Step 2: Identify and Prepare the Spokespeople.
A crisis situation should not be the first time a spokesperson speaks to the media. Identify the
person who will be the official “voice” of the company should a crisis develop and make sure
that person is trained accordingly. (Note that the spokesperson may not be the same in every
situation. You may need to train a few spokespeople. Also have a “backup” person identified …
just in case.)
Remember that you need to communicate offline and offline. With that in mind, evaluate your
online presence and determine what channels can be used to communicate information in real-
time — and who should be responsible for sharing updates online. Make sure that person (or
people) understands that guidelines for communicating during a crisis are most likely different
than guidelines for regular day-to-day interactions.
Step 3: Develop processes and protocols.
What’s the chain of command in a crisis? Who needs to be part of the approval process? If a
reporter “scoops” the crisis before the team has been briefed, what’s the correct response?
What’s the proper course of action when it appears that a crisis is brewing online? All of these
are questions that need to be answered as part of your crisis plan. Having a set of approved
procedures in place AHEAD OF TIME is key to responding in a timely manner and protecting
the company’s brand. You don’t want to waste time trying to agree on an approval process as
people share their disdain for your company via Twitter. Odds are, they’ll mobilize faster than
you will — potentially causing significant damage to your brand.
Step 4: Prepare for New Media’s Impact on Crisis Communication
This section could probably be a whole post on its own. Crisis communication today is very
different than crisis communication of years past. Everyone with a phone is a roving reporter —
able to record video or take photos that may influence how the situation is perceived. Online
monitoring during a crisis is critical. You need to know who is saying what and where. And, then
you need to be prepared to jump into the conversation to correct facts, answer questions and
share the brand’s side of the story and steps taken to fix the situation.
Along those same lines, “new” crisis communication means you shouldn’t solely rely on the
news media to disseminate your message. Think about opportunities to leverage multi-media to
communicate. If a press conference may be appropriate, can you stream it on UStream? If so,
how does that work, and what equipment do you need to purchase? Or, for impromptu
statements, can you have a staffer on-hand with a Flip camera, taking footage that can be shared
online? As you’re developing processes and procedures, also develop a list of potential
communication tools — everything from written statements … to real-time updates via Twitter,
Facebook … or multimedia — and “best practices” to leverage those tools in a crisis. Be sure to
include a sample Press Conference release in written form.
Step 5: Brainstorm Possible Scenarios & Responses. Role Play. Repeat.
Crime. Fire and other natural disasters. Embezzlement. Bankruptcy. Communication perceived
as inappropriate. In any business, there are dozens — if not more — of potential crisis situations
that could ruin a brand … especially if poor communication makes the situation even worse.
Identify these potential situations and develop a “response template” in the crisis communication
plan. For example, if a major theft occurs, how do you respond? Can you have responses already
outlined, with blanks to be filled in based on the situational details? If you’re an apartment
community and a rape occurs on your property, what resources can you offer to help residents
improve safety? The more preparation you can do ahead of time, the quicker you’ll be able to
respond if a crisis does strike. Conduct crisis “drills” to get the team used to mobilizing quickly
and working through the process. These drills should include mock on-camera interviews with
the spokespeople, too.
Lastly, be creative and think outside of the box with this assignment!


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