Never has the need for a thoroughly planned, well-rehearsed, comprehensive crisis communications plan been more apparent: the recent incidents involving NatWest, O2 and Barclays (to name just a few) have amply demonstrated the complexity involved in achieving a ‘good’ crisis communications response when under considerable pressure both internally, and under the scrutiny of the press and general public.
The delivery of any successful crisis management response is reliant on excellent communications: a rehearsed, effective, integrated and ready-to-go crisis communications plan is essential. This involves much more than the day-to-day communications strategy. The plan should:
- Focus on the approach to be taken under crisis circumstances
- Set out the crisis communications team’s roles and responsibilities
- Identify the liaison with the CEO and the executive crisis team
- Clarify how the two teams will interact and coordinate.
A good Crisis Communications Plan should also include: the key stakeholders, contact lists, pre-approved statements, locations for operation, social media strategies, and any other internal or external communication requirement for that organisation’s crisis response.
There are many communications professionals who see a crisis as simply an extension of their standard PR role in terms of complexity and coordination requirements. However, the resource requirements and time-critical nature of a crisis response in the era of social media and heightened stakeholder expectations means that a whole new set of rules must apply. The advent of a specific Crisis Communications Conference in May 2012 has demonstrated that this critical area is now attaining the recognition it deserves. The speakers at this conference recognised the need for detailed planning during business as usual and the integration of this with the main corporate crisis plan, and the benefits of rehearsing a crisis response were stressed – frequently!