Financial Crisis & Crisis Communications Plans

By Gerard Braud

www.braudcommunications.com

My phone rings and on the other end is a somewhat panicked communicator who realizes his organization may take a hit from the current financial crisis and he needs a crisis communication plan right away.

Bravo. This is a perfect example of how and why crisis communications plans are needed for events other than fires, explosions, acts of violence and natural disasters. It’s also one of the reasons I developed a system for writing and completing a crisis communications plan in just 2 days.

In crisis communications we learn there are sudden crises and smoldering crises. Too often communicators have difficulty making a case for a crisis communications plan because members of their emergency response team have convinced leaders that they have everything covered.

Not true.

Sometimes it is the fire, explosion, violence and disaster stuff that triggers the crisis communications plan. But sometimes, crisis communications is needed when the emergency operations plan is not needed.  The current financial crisis and the impact on various organizations is one of those examples.

Now is a perfect time to make your case to write a crisis communications plan. Here are a few things you need to be aware of:

• Never call it a crisis plan. There is extensive confusion in definitions and terminology. Many organizations call their emergency operations plan their crisis plan. Others call their business continuity plan a crisis plan. Neither of those have true communications elements. To read more about correct definitions, read the definitions section on www.crisiscommunicationsplans.com

• The time to write a crisis communications plan is on a clear sunny day and not in the throes of the crisis. There is still time. Do it now. You should write the plan when your emotions are low and you have clarity of thought. You can download a free article about how to write a plan at www.crisiscommunicationsplans.com Look for the link in the upper right announcements box.

• When proposing to write a crisis communications plan during times of tight budgets, link the cost of the plan to the business revenue. Partner with the sales department for partial funding by pointing out that good crisis communications helps the company keep customers while bad communications could cause the company to lose customers. Partner with HR for partial funding if layoffs may happen. Work with your financial department/investor relations for partial funding if stocks, donations, cash flow or investments may be affected.

• Whether you currently have a plan or plan to write one, make sure your crisis communications plan is not just a list of policies. Most I’ve been asked to review over the years state lots of policy and serve little use on the day of the crisis. An effective plan must be one that you can open when you need it and follow it page-by-page, step-by-step, in the midst of the crisis. It must be a roadmap that keeps you focused and on task during a time of high emotion, deadlines and high pressure.

• Crisis communications fails for two reasons: decision paralysis and delays in releasing statements. The first page of your crisis communications plan must dictate that the first official communications must go out within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis. And an extensive set of pre-written statements in template form, written on a clear sunny day and pre-approved, will eliminate proof reading and wordsmithing delays on the day of the crisis. I can’t imagine a plan without 50 to 100 such pre-written statements.

If you need help cranking out a crisis communications plan now, contact me directly at 985-624-9976 or e-mail at gerard@braudcommunications.com .