7 components of a crisis communications plan you should be evaluating during a crisis exercise

You may find yourself in the position of having to put together the Crisis Communications plans for your organization, if that’s the case, then there are a few important things to keep in mind and points that I’ve always made sure the crisis teams I train, are aware of.

All relevant stakeholder groups need to be identified and prioritized according to the degree to which they are affected and the degree to which they can be influenced. Communications with stakeholders, including employees should be ongoing and assessed throughout the crisis exercise, but in a real crisis event this would also apply to the recovery period.

The Spokesperson

In order to ensure that consistent messages are reported to all stakeholder groups, there must be only one source of official statements. Employees should be made aware of this, in accordance with the protocols outlined in the organization’s policy on communications management.

Employee Guidelines For Handling Media Enquiries
Where employee communications are required the response should be evaluated, taking account of the following: When a crisis is identified what action should HR Internal communications members take to sensitively inform all employees and contractors?

If approached by the media, how should employees and contractors respond if at all?
How should the crisis team communications member’s address the media management issues and
what type of support structure must be established to handle media requests?
Spokespersons Guide For Handling Media Enquiries if the CEO is unavailable
During emergencies and crises, the CEO or the Media Spokesperson should be available 24/7. During the exercise, it may be worth injecting a situation where the CEO or delegate is not readily available to speak to the media requiring a statement to be made by a briefed member of the public relations team. In these circumstances, how does the new spokesperson address the key guidelines for handling media questions and what are they?

Holding Statements
In the event of a major incident with immediate media interest, it may be necessary to issue a holding statement prior to the first CMT meeting. It is essential to avoid any admission of liability to the media who may try to apportion blame. Further statements should be discussed with the legal member of the crisis team. During the crisis exercise, the Holding statement should be provided to the Observers for review

Media Releases
As more facts become available, a series of media releases should be drafted. Media releases should be distributed if the matter is in the public interest or likely to be reported, or if the crisis team considers that there is some benefit in proactively reporting the crisis. Further media releases should be issued regularly throughout the crisis, providing necessary facts as they become available and explaining how the organisation is handling the situation.

Q&A Sessions
In response to the crisis, you should be looking to the crisis communications team drafting a list of potential questions and answers to take into account the concerns and information needs of all affected stakeholders. These may also be used as a guideline for the spokesperson when responding to stakeholder enquiries or included in a media kit for use, for example, at media briefings.

Media Briefings
In the case of an extremely serious crisis incident being injected into the exercise, it may be deemed necessary by the crisis team to be more efficient to call a media briefing to address all the media at once. You would expect this decision to be made by the CEO in conjunction with the organisation’s Media Representative. You should expect the briefing to be addressed by the crisis communications spokesperson.

It would be usual to provide the media with a media kit, including an approved media release or media statement. The crisis team should also have available in the crisis room:

  • fact sheets about the organisation,
  • information regarding relevant accreditation (eg. OH&S),
  • a media briefing about the crisis situation that could be faxed or emailed to media representatives,
  • relevant photographic material and,
  • further details for important contacts.