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11 points to factor into your crisis comms plan

No-one wants their organisation to face a crisis. Everyone hopes it may never happen.

However, just in case it does, it’s essential to have a robust plan in place which will protect your reputation.

Here are 11 points you should factor into your crisis communications strategy:

  1. If you incident involves the emergency services – say a chemical spill or a serious accident – the media are likely to be informed, whether you want them to be or not.
  2. Nowadays, any incident which involves your customers will probably appear on social media first – over which you’ll have little control.
  3. Consider how you will communicate with your key stakeholders – whether that be customers, suppliers, “victims” and their relatives, employees, emergency services, regulatory authorities, and indeed the media.
  4. Depending on your industry, it may be worth having a dark website ready to go live which will help to position you as the main source of information and demonstrate that you are taking control of the situation.
  5. You will need to align your main website and social media updates, and cancel any scheduled promotional posts.
  6. When journalists call your offices they will be persistent. They will want to find out what is going on and will not accept being fobbed off. Your switchboard operators and press team should be trained to deal with this without antagonising the press.
  7. You need the capacity to expand your press office function with experienced press officers so you can cope with the additional volume of calls.
  8. Members of the team need to be assigned to take responsibility for logging media inquiries and for monitoring coverage.
  9. Prepare holding statements ready to be released and put in place a rapid but foolproof clearance procedure for statements and updates.
  10. It may be useful to have contingency plans in place to call press conferences quickly, as this is often the easiest way to deliver updates, and take control of your message.
  11. Make sure you have credible, authoritative spokespeople who will be able to handle hostile interviews, get your messages across effectively and protect your reputation.

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Ann Wright has more than 25 years’ experience working with the media – from both sides of the fence. She spent a decade as a newspaper reporter before moving into television, where she worked on high profile and prestigious programmes including live state occasions, consumer investigations and news. She is co-founder of Rough House Media, which provides training courses, strategic advice and video production.

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