Crises don’t wait for optimal timing to strike. While you can anticipate the possibility of a crisis, you can’t be sure what, when, or how to expect it. The only thing that you can reasonably assume is that, eventually, we all will face one in our professional lives.
Because they’re unpredictable, it’s easy to put off preparing for one.
The moral of the story? Having a crisis plan for your business is a core task, just like having a five-year business plan. And like any good plan, a crisis plan needs to address your communication strategies.
Why Do You Need a Crisis Communication Plan
It’s not rocket science that having a crisis communication plan makes sense, but really understanding the benefits of one helps you better articulate what you need to put into it. It all comes down to risk management. Here’s what you risk when you don’t put a plan in place.
You can’t prepare and manage at the same time. This is basically the professional equivalent of rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time. Crises move quickly and if you’re trying to get your feet under you as it’s happening, you’ll lose precious opportunities to respond effectively.
2. Protecting your clients, staff, assets, and brand
Lost opportunities come in the form of losses for your clients and your staff. Being unprepared for a crisis means you risk losing hard-earned assets and damaging one of the hardest things to recover – the value of your brand.
3. Stay ahead of media conversations
If a crisis moves quickly, then so does the media. Social reactions take place almost instantaneously and the press isn’t far behind.
In a crisis, you want to have control of your messaging so that the right information gets shared. A crisis communication plan helps your firm be the source of that information, not others.
4. Build trust with clients, stakeholders, and the larger community
Trust. It’s what every law firm – every business, in fact – needs to thrive. Crises can seriously erode trust when they’re handled badly. But when they’re handled well? You may find yourself better situated when you make it to the other side of the problem if you handle everything with care.
Your Basic Crisis Communication Plan
1. Identify goals
This doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be addressed. This should be a conversation with all the decision-makers about what your crisis communication plan needs to accomplish.
You can say something as simple as: “This plan develops a communication framework for stakeholders in the event that a crisis impacts normal business activities.” It just needs to give context to all the activities that follow.
2. Identify stakeholders and channels
Ah, but who are these stakeholders? They include both internal and external parties, from staff and partners and board members (internal) to clients, media outlets, or government agencies (external). These are people who, to various degrees, need information about a crisis.
To make the plan easy to execute, gather contact information at an early stage and categorize by what types of information do they need to know.
3. Create an internal crisis management team
Internal decision making can be hard during a crisis. Who needs to be looped in and at what point? Now is a great time to map out a hierarchy of crisis decision-makers on your team. For lots of law firms, this may look different from the daily decision-making process…or it may not. It all depends on your firm’s structure.
As you structure this part of the plan, you should also determine what information needs to be disclosed. What happened? Which details about the crisis are important? What is the potential for fall out?
3. Assign people to manage information
Now that you’ve put together your crisis management team, who is responsible for what? Who puts together press releases and speaks to the media? Who communicates with staff members? And who is responsible for tracking how the crisis progresses and making adjustments?
One key resource to develop is a fact sheet. A fact sheet serves as a go-to source of information for everyone. Fact sheets create a shared understanding of the event, consistency in messaging, and they’re useable across multiple platforms.
4. Brainstorm example crisis scenarios and FAQS
All of this provides a framework for the actual events…but what are the actual events? While national catastrophes are clearly a possibility, crises happen on the local and regional level more frequently. Anything from natural disasters to client injuries to cybersecurity incidents can create crisis-level business disruptions.
What the next few months looks like, no one knows. Or even the next year. Don’t wait to see how things play out before getting a strategy in place. Not sure where to begin? Schedule a free consult with our team. We’d love to chat.