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  • Amy Numbers

How do you write a crisis communication plan?

In which situations do we use crisis communication?

Simply put - crisis communication is used in crisis situations. What constitutes a crisis?

Components of a crisis:

  • A sudden and unexpected disruption

  • Interrupts normal operations

  • Requires an immediate, coordinated management response

  • Is likely to require decision-making actions at the highest level of the company

  • Involves notifications of agencies, neighborhoods or other outside parties

  • Has the potential to attract extensive news media and public attention to the company

Examples of a crisis include natural disasters/weather, personnel issues, injuries and breaches. Different types of crises could be …

  • Fire

  • Explosion

  • Chemical spill or release

  • Jobsite accident

  • Groundwater contamination

  • Crisis at adjacent facility

  • Natural disaster

  • Product or service failure

  • Terrorism

  • Personnel-related incident

  • Layoffs

  • Office closing

  • Transportation accident

  • News event related to employee

  • And the crisis we are now all too familiar with … a pandemic


The importance of crisis communication cannot be understated. The ability to enable seamless communication within your organization (and to the public if necessary) is a valuable skill in today’s workplace, where it seems that the likelihood of a crisis is higher than ever before.

Financial. Technological. Personnel. Natural. Organizational. There are many different types of crises that call for different crisis communication techniques. Your #1 priority? Establishing your crisis communication plan.


What is a crisis communication plan?

A crisis communication plan is a guide for an organization in times of crisis, making it possible to respond quickly and thoughtfully.

The purpose of a crisis communication plan is to have a blueprint to lead the team during crunch time. No matter the situation, your leadership team needs to know how to effectively navigate your organization’s communication efforts in a crisis. Want to know the true importance of a crisis management plan? Studies prove that 90 percent of crisis situations can be prevented or avoided, so the process of planning really makes a difference.

The plan should identify everything from who speaks to the media; how you inform different audiences such as employees, the general public, members, etc., what is happening; and basic messages that are constant for your organization such as dedication to safety.

Although it isn’t possible to script all the messages and action plans before a crisis hits, by having the framework established, your team has a greater chance of navigating the situation more effectively. Your response time will be prompt because you’ve already laid the groundwork.


What should a crisis communication plan include?

Elements of a crisis communication plan include the key messages you want to share (examples of key messages in a crisis communication plan could include safety measures, where to find latest updates, etc.), identification of target audiences, as well as roles and responsibilities for communicating and managing a crisis.


Let’s outline the key steps involved in crisis management.


Your crisis communication plan checklist:

  • Transparency: Be honest, even if you don’t have all the answers. Being honest doesn’t necessarily mean immediately sharing every piece of information with everyone - you should speak with intention.

  • Clear and concise language: No speculation, stick to facts. What are the key messages you want to get across? What does your audience need to know? What questions are you getting from them or what questions do you anticipate? Use those questions to guide your plan. Keep your organization’s “voice” top-of-mind as well—do you normally release communications in a conversational, casual tone or do you use more academic language? Do you use bullet points or infographics? Who is the “face” of your company—who should the message come from, who has released your communications in the past? (This could be a different person for internal vs. external communications) Thinking about these elements will make your crisis communication plan more consistent with what your audience has come to expect when it comes to communication from your organization.

  • Core values: Most organizations have a mission statement and/or a list of core values that defines who they are and drives what they do … and your crisis communication plan should be no different. Utilize those core values or mission statements to guide how you lay out your communications during a crisis to ensure you’re covering all aspects consistently.

  • People: A crisis communication plan should keep people as its top priority. This of course means keeping safety at the forefront of your plan, but also consider how you will take care of your people (be it your employees, customers or another group that is involved) in terms of mental health, financial or other resources, and be sure to detail that in your communication. Even unaffected groups will want to know how you are caring for those involved.

  • Channels: Consider how you will announce a message across various channels. An internal email will likely contain different details than a message on your website, as your employees are on a different need-to-know basis than your customers. Social media sites have their own specifications that you’ll need to keep in mind, such as Instagram requiring a photo along with a post, and Twitter having a character limit.

AOE has deep expertise in developing crisis plans and will work with you to help build optimal communications for your employees, clients, customers and other interested parties—no matter what the crisis. For more information, reach out to us today and be sure to visit AOE’s Crisis Communications Microsite.

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