Crisis Communications Readiness: Five Things to Do Now

January 4, 2023

With the start of the new year, there are a number of things you can do from a communications standpoint to ensure your organization is prepared to respond appropriately to a crisis.

Remember, crises do not always come with a warning – they just happen – and you hopefully have the systems and tools in-place to react accordingly. As you look ahead to this year, here are five things to consider:

1.     Update your crisis communication plan.

  • Make sure your key team member list (and related contact information) is updated and accurate. 
  • Confirm that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities and knows how/where to access the plan, if needed. 
  • Update any other content (i.e., sample messaging, new protocols, etc.), as needed.
  • If you do not already have a plan, make this your top priority for this year and start planning now. 


2.     Do a test run (or make plans for one).

  • Gauge your level of preparedness and readiness by running a crisis simulation drill with key people. 
  • By doing a tabletop exercise, you and other key leaders can practice using the plan in a controlled setting. 
  • Use this exercise to have “what if” discussions and get honest feedback and critique regarding the crisis plan’s content, resources and tools.
  • If no exercise is planned (or you have never done one), find time on the calendar to do so.


3.     Complete a thorough self-assessment.

  • Determine if your organization is doing something different that offers a new level (or avenue) of risk. 
  • Operations leads communications, so take a close look at what you are doing operationally and determine if any modifications need to be made to your crisis response strategy, approach, infrastructure or plan. 
  • For example, new products or services, acquisitions or entering new markets (domestic or international) could potentially offer new levels of exposure and risk for your organization, thus requiring modifications to your plan.
  • Make sure that other existing plans (i.e., workplace safety plan, active shooter plan, business continuity plan, data security plan, etc.) are referenced and accounted for in your crisis communications plan, so as to ensure there is clarity and consistency in how your organization responds from a communications standpoint.
  • Note: the crisis communication plan is meant to work in conjunction with these other plans, NOT replace them. 


4.     Provide training and development opportunities.

  • Make sure people at all levels of your organization are prepared and confident in their abilities to respond to crisis situations. 
  • Designated spokespeople for the organization should be media trained and prepared to handle any number of different media relations scenarios.
  • From a general communications standpoint, participating in webinars, attending conferences and even reading (and sharing) articles can be beneficial and add to the skill sets of your response team, especially if the learning is focused on crisis response and readiness.
  • Training and development will help build a culture of preparation and readiness that can be beneficial if/when crises occur.


5.     Plant your seeds now.

  • “You will reap what you sow” is an adage that applies to crisis preparedness and readiness. What you do today (or not do) will have an impact on your situation when crises occur. 
  • As a communications professional, make sure you are NOT disconnected from other key areas within your organization, as it is important you have an understanding of what is going on throughout all areas of your organization.
  • Find ways to develop and utilize internal sensing or intelligence gathering systems to help you identify potential problems before they morph into crises . . . encourage people to say something when they see something.
  • Make sure your leaders and other key colleagues understand the importance of communications and crisis readiness and that they provide you information and/or support when it comes to addressing things proactively.
  • Make sure you are “planting seeds” when it comes to proactively communicating about your organization to external audiences. For example, let people know about your organization’s good philanthropic work in the community, employees who are winning awards, or your products or services being recognized for their safety or innovation.
  • People who know “the good” about your organization will likely be more understanding or sympathetic when “the bad” occurs as a result of crisis. 

Blog by Mark Yontz