Five Tips for Drafting A Crisis Communication Plan

By Ramonna Robinson, President of GroundFloor Media and CWCC Member

GFM LogoThe PR team for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling recently learned the value of having a crisis communication plan that includes a variety of potentially damaging scenarios.

Many boiling issues can become a full-blown crisis, yet some can be mitigated with a thoughtful and immediate response. Undoubtedly, how they are handled can define an organization’s future.

While the Sterling scenario, one in which a private voicemail laden with racist comments from Sterling became public, was probably never one of the scenarios included in a crisis plan, we can use this opportunity to dust off our crisis plans and make sure they are up to date. If you don’t have a plan, here are some crisis communication and issues management tips to consider ahead of time:

  1. Create a crisis communication plan that includes scenarios, sample messages and a response plan. Revisit it at least annually, and update sections that are likely to change, such as the potential crisis scenarios and members of the crisis communication team.
  2. Develop a social media policy, and share it regularly with your employees. All too often what an employee believes to be an innocuous remark on social media can come back to harm a company’s reputation.
  3. Train staff on how to respond to a crisis or issue at hand and provide them with media and message training.
  4. Be proactive and hire an agency or outside consultant—even if they don’t execute, their strategic counsel and outside perspective on the issue can be invaluable.
  5. Learn from your mistakes and understand that trying to cover up the truth instead of making real reforms will continue to harm a company’s reputation over the long term.

In the case of Donald Sterling, it’s definitely a good reminder that what you say can and (likely) will be used against you. If you haven’t already, add voicemail to the list of things to be very cautions on.


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