Essential Elements of a Crisis Communications Plan

Formulating a crisis response and communications plan is an important first step in preparing for your next crisis. Some of the best crisis plans are simple. Rather than envisioning every “if this, then that” circumstance, a robust crisis plan which is somewhat vague might be the perfect framework for your organization.

Every crisis plan contains similar components. However, each component should be relevant to your organization and its structure as well as peculiarities of your geographic location (coastal travel organizations will face annual hurricane preparedness whereas others face tornado season). A good plan should also have power – the power for the team to follow its steps in a crisis without stopping to seek permission or get approvals. It should empower a team to work a crisis in the first few hours without sanctions or interruptions.

Does your organization have a crisis plan? If not, you can get started today with these essential elements.

Goal or Objective

This brief introductory section should outline what this plan is designed to go, with words of encouragement for the team who may turn to it suddenly for help. It will help set the tone for the team in crisis.

Purpose

Clearly and plainly stated in a few bullet points.

Definition of Crisis

A general definition may give clarity as a crisis emerges and should include a bulleted list of examples specific to your business or organization.

Statement of Organization’s Crisis Policy

If you already have one in an employee handbook or business operations guide, it should be repeated here.

Crisis Preparation

What has your organization done in advance to prepare the team to manage a crisis? Where do you keep the plan? Do you have a conference calling number reserved? How is the team alerted? Do you have outside counsel on standby? Their information should go here. Are there reporting forms which will be used later? They should also go here. Some organizations have designated muster areas if their physical plant needs to be evacuated. What about designated areas for news media to gather? Where are the emergency supplies located?

While some of these questions seem obvious, it’s important to have it all in one place. Why? What if the one person who stocked the emergency supply cabinet or the one person who has the evacuation plan memorized is on vacation, or worse, is involved in the emergency itself?

Crisis Management Team

This section should state the titles and areas of responsibility for each member of your team. It might be useful to include a chart of the team members.

Command Center

Information about how and where you will establish a command center go here. Also, an alternate location should be named.

Crisis Management Timeline

This is the blueprint for how your team will identify the problem, begin to solve it and communicate what they are doing to the stakeholder base. There will be 4-6 steps to managing your crisis, although depending on its complexity and severity, you may follow the steps more than once.

Pre-approved Statements

Every organization has a handful of crises that are likely to happen. For the travel industry this might include weather emergencies like tornadoes and hurricanes, medical emergencies of guests and visitors, crimes committed at the organization like robbery, car accidents and domestic disputes.

Monitoring

Every organization should routinely monitor what is being said about their brand. This might include online services or keywords but may also be part of a media database subscription. These tools change frequently, so it’s important to know who has access and what they are capable of delivering in a crisis.

Evaluation Procedures

What action is necessary at the conclusion of a crisis? Are you bound by law to file a certain type of report? Is someone on the team required to write an after-action report? Will the team gather at a certain time after the crisis is over to evaluate what happened and any changes which need to be made in the organization before the next crisis? A good crisis plan will identify a timeline for these things to take place. It’s important for the crisis management team to download emotionally, too. Putting a statement about what’s required related to evaluation sets the stage for that to happen later.

Attachments

Your plan should include all necessary attachments like the management team chart and contact information spreadsheet, media lists, company backgrounder, pre-approved statements and company “boilerplate” language.

You can start the journey to making your organization crisis-ready when you start to build a plan from these essential elements.

More Crisis Planning Resources can be found here.

This post reflects some of the material I will be using next week for Texas Travel Industry Association’s Travel and Tourism College, an annual event to elevate the expertise of travel professionals in Texas.

UPDATE: Want more? Click here to get my FREE e-book called “Managing Your Next Crisis.” It’s a free download and will get your organization started on preparation.

Be More Productive

This week I led a session for the Texas Travel Industry Association on productivity tools and apps for small travel organizations.  It was fun to talk about some of the tools I use to increase my efficiency and simplify the day-to-day functions of my business.

At the beginning of the session, I polled the group about the pain points in their business and the participants weren’t shy about their challenges. Some of the challenges they shared included information overload, keeping up with technology, getting organized and learning to delegate.

Sound familiar? Most small business owners have felt at least one of these pain points.  The presentation offered some suggestions on tools for work productivity, project management, accounting and other small business needs. The tools and links to them are included below.

 

It’s easy to tie a perceived level of efficiency to the tools you use. Even more important than the actual tools, though, is to THINK productively.  That’s when the tools you choose will change your working habits. So before you run out and adopt a bunch of tools, you need to think productively. Here’s a few ways to get started:

Principle No. 1: Test it, Don’t Get Married to it

There are so many new tools out there, use the 30 day trial to see if this is the right tool for you. If it doesn’t live up to your expectations, move on. Chances are you can find something similar that does work for you.

Principle No. 2: Listen and Learn

Learn to monitor your brand and your industry to stay on top of trends and see what people are saying about YOU and about your brand.

Principle No. 3: Learn to Say No

Create reasonable boundaries for trying new technologies. You don’t have the time to try every new social network or cool tool out there. So pick a few, master them and add more as time and resources allow.

Principle No. 4: Invest to Simplify

Ask yourself: If I invest in this, what will I gain? If you invest 2 hours digitizing your business receipts which will save you at least 4 hours at tax time, that’s an investment worth considering. Sometimes thinking long term about adopting a tool or app is a better way to evaluate that tool.

Ready to be more productive? I’d love to hear how you made changes to your work habits in the comments.

Many thanks to the team at Texas Travel Industry Association for inviting me to share this information and for all the great work they do in Texas to help regional tourism organizations succeed.