Developing a Crisis Plan

 

Following an audit, Chelgate can work with a client to improve the company’s readiness for a crisis.

The crisis communications plan and the documents

A crisis communications plan should form the basis of any company’s public response to a crisis. This plan should have several key elements:

  • It should set out clear policy parameters to underpin decision making during a crisis. For example, if the public interest is the primary consideration in any communications decisions, that should be stated here.  On the other hand, if protection of the integrity of the business, and safeguarding of shareholder interests are the primary considerations, then this should be made clear too.
  • It should define crisis, and the circumstances that justify the application of special crisis procedures. It should also be clear about who is authorised to declare crisis procedures “live”.
  • It should set out clear crisis alert reporting procedures
  • It should establish levels of authority, and lines of reporting and approval for all matters and materials relating to crisis communications.  This may necessarily short-cut the normal processes.
  • It should identify tasks and roles for a dedicated Crisis Communications team, and establish clear lines of leadership and reporting for that team.
  • It should define the role and access arrangements to necessary external resources.  These may include lawyers, PR / Crisis consultants, insurers,  medical advisers and others.  There should be clear indications as to which member(s) of management has the authority and responsibility for contacting and managing these external resources.
  • It should spell out arrangements for the crisis information control centre, and the location for holding/ briefing on site media.
  • It should also indicate arrangements for a back-up control centre if on-site access is impossible for any reason.

For many Chelgate clients we also prepare a handbook for members of the team with management responsibilities.  Recognising that most crisis manuals are out-of-date as soon as they are printed, and are often relegated, ignored to a dusty shelf, our Crisis Handbooks are loose-leaf, and require completion and regular updating by the client team.  This updating process is built into the crisis plan.
The typical handbook will have three principal elements:

  • Guidelines and instructions relating to different stages of the crisis process
  • Contact lists (landline, mobile, email) for team members , and also for important external audiences and stakeholders.  These may include media, emergency services (comms departments and operations), local and national government contacts, regulators etc). Where possible, these should include out-of-hours/ weekend contact details
  • Blank working pages to keep a timed log of outside contacts and significant developments occurring during a crisis.

Materials

In addition, the Crisis Communications plan should identify materials which can and should be prepared and held ready in advance of any crisis. Typically, these might involve:

  • High resolution management photographs.  These normally will be unsmiling – to avoid an inappropriate cheerful image running alongside a negative or tragic story.
  • Management structure details, with names
  • Media friendly short descriptions of the organisation and its main elements, together with longer descriptions which the media can also draw upon.
  • Copies of recent press releases and public statements
  • Charts, graphs and relevant statistics
  • Where appropriate, relevant high definition maps and aerial views
  • Relevant high definition captioned photographs

Chelgate work with their crisis clients to identify and prepare the materials and resources necessary to prepare a plan relevant to their specific operations and requirements