When a disaster occurs, it’s often the misleading bit of information shared by an outsider that gins up rumors about a damaged business shutting down.
Obviously, this situation undermines the company’s ability to recover. That’s one big reason why precise, effective communication—within the organization and out to the public—is vital during an emergency.
With the Atlantic Hurricane season upon us—and Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast—it’s a good reminder to all organizations about the need to set up an effective crisis communications strategy.
You want to develop a plan to make sure your employees, customers, vendors, contractors—everyone you do business with—is aware of the progress you’re making as you recover in the aftermath of a disaster.
Here are a few tips to get your company’s crisis communications plan started:
1. Develop and regularly update an emergency contact list that includes each person’s home and mobile phone numbers, alternate mobile number, personal email, family contact information, and the evacuation plan.
2. Establish an email alert system capable of multiple means of communication to employees, stakeholders, and clients. Test the alert system regularly.
3. Consider an online social network platform (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) for Web-based crisis communications.
4. Have a plan to deal with the local media. With a good strategy in place, the media can become a supportive function as you rebuild after a disaster.
5. Designate primary and secondary spokespersons, and give them training in dealing with the media. Make sure all employees know the name of the spokesperson.
6. Create key message and talking points to ensure consistent messaging.
7. Monitor continuously what’s being said and written about your company both online and offline, so you can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your strategy and messaging.
After the crisis, notify all critical people of your next steps. Also, debrief with your staff to evaluate lessons learned and how to improve the plan.
CAROL CHASTANG is a community moderator for the Small Business Administration.