Crisis public relations can make or break a brand during a crisis. When nightmare scenarios befall well-meaning and prestigious businesses, a diverse range of threats can severely damage a brand’s reputation. While some scenarios are just bumps on the road for some businesses, for others, crises are the beginning of an untimely end.

There is a fine line between low-profile mishaps and full-blown occurrences. An effective plan should be in place to stem issues that affect a company’s bottom line—top among these issues: customer acquisition, customer loyalty, and revenues.

A well-developed and regularly updated crisis communication plan guarantees that an organization has the right infrastructure to handle man-made or natural crises. With crises coming in all shapes and sizes–from pandemics and floods to lawsuits and data breaches–, having a well-managed crisis communication plan can preserve an organization’s credibility, reputation and prevent untimely closure. That said: an effective crisis communication plan has several key components.

Components of a Crisis Communication Plan

Development of a Communication Plan

Effective crisis communication plans involve several elements. However, a key aspect of developing a crisis communication plan is to keep the plan simple, addressing the critical issues only.

Formatting the plan in a manner that sections can be detached when needed is key. Preparing soft and hard copies is vital in ensuring that crisis management teams are conversant with key procedures.

While developing a crisis communication plan, six elements should be incorporated. The elements are a detailed plan explaining how to handle crises, a crisis communication team responsible for sharing information and monitoring responses to a crisis, key messages to be used in the event of a crisis, and internal communication procedures. Other elements include key contacts and media lists and appendices, including guidelines and checklists to facilitate crisis communication.

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Media Training

To achieve the desired results, effective communication skills are paramount. With media training, spokespeople learn the best approaches to employ when interacting with the public and media during crises.

To create an effective crisis communication plan, identifying and training individuals tasked with speaking during crises can be a gamechanger. This list may include an organization’s CEO and senior managers in operations in finance or human resource.

Engaging website

In a crisis, a regularly-updated website is a valuable tool. With an easy-to-navigate website, an organization can provide updated and timely information and other resources that help the media and public understand a crisis.

Organizations should keep a ghost website page that’s made live when needed. With this strategy, an organization can channel information to the target audience, helping avert the negative outcomes.

Social Media

The introduction of social networks has transformed how organizations respond to crises. With social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube having millions of active users, effective crisis communication plans should incorporate monitoring of social media sites to assess perceptions and views about an organization, its services, or its employees.

By effectively monitoring social media conversations, brands can avoid potential crises or prevent the explosion of a minor issue, introducing undesired outcomes. That said, incorporating social media in a crisis communication plan will go a long way in mitigating crises.

Mainstream Media

An effective crisis communication plan incorporates strategies to employ when engaging the mainstream media. Such a plan should outline how often the media will receive updates on a crisis. Brands facing crises should be proactive in monitoring news and information presented by different media to respond appropriately.

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At the same time, crisis communication plans should emphasize conveying factual and realistic information. Outlining positive action steps that a brand can take during a crisis is vital for developing effective media responses.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.