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Crisis Communications Plans

Identifying Audiences

Contact Information

Working with the Media

Message Development

Contact and Information Centers

The need to communicate is immediate when an emergency occurs. Many different audiences must be reached with information specific to their interests and needs.

The crisis communications plan is an important component of a business’ preparedness program. A business must be able to respond promptly, accurately and confidently during an emergency in the hours and days that follow.

Identifying Audiences and How to Reach Them

There are many potential audiences that will want information during and following an incident; each has its own needs for information. The challenge is to identify potential audiences, determine their need for information and then identify who within the business is best able to communicate with that audience.

Possible audiences include:

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Management
  • Government officials and regulators

Contact Information

Contact information for each audience should be compiled in advance and be accessible during an incident. Existing information such as customer, supplier and employee contact information may be exportable from existing databases. Include as much information for each contact as possible (e.g., organization name, contact name, business telephone number, cell number, fax number and email address). Lists should be updated regularly and secured.

Working with the Media

News media will be on scene or calling to obtain details if the incident is serious. There may be numerous requests for information from local, regional or national media. The challenge of managing large numbers of requests for information, interviews and public statements can be overwhelming.

Determine in advance who will speak to the media and prepare that spokesperson with talking points, so they can speak clearly and effectively in terms that can be easily understood.

Prioritizing requests for information and development of press releases and talking points can assist with the need to communicate quickly and effectively.

Message Development

One of the goals of crisis communication planning is to make sure that messages are consistent. Each audience will seek information that is specific to them during and following an incident.

Messages can be pre-scripted as templates with blanks to be filled in when information is available and tailored to each incident. Pre-scripted messages can be developed, approved by the management team, and stored on a remotely accessible server for quick editing and release when needed.

There initially may be limited information about the incident or its potential impacts. Having a coordinated review and distribution process allows the business to adapt to changing information. As days and weeks go by, this messaging will transition from reacting to the incident to moving toward recovery. Messaging for each step of this process also can be developed in advance.

Contact and Information Centers

Communications before, during and following an emergency is bi-directional. Stakeholders or audiences will ask questions and request information. The business will answer questions and provide information.

Contact and information centers receive requests for information from each audience and disseminate information to each audience.

  • The contact center fields inquiries from customers, suppliers, the news media and others. The contact center should be properly equipped and staffed by personnel to answer requests for information. The staff working within the contact center should be provided with scripts and a “frequently asked questions” (FAQ) document to answer questions consistently and accurately.
  • The information center consists of existing staff and technologies (e.g., website, call center, bulletin boards, etc.) that field requests for information from customers, employees and others during normal business hours. The information center and its technologies can be used to push information out to audiences and post information for online reading.

Last Updated: 09/07/2023

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