Crisis communication and management plan

Ten steps organizations should take to guide and support their employees, earn their trust, and help the local community.

1. Identify the risks
List all the possible reputation risks for your organization: emergencies that may occur, weaknesses that exist in the procedures or team, and other possible issues.
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2. Prepare a message
Your communication during a crisis should also be inextricably linked to what your organization usually does. Mentioning the crisis should not be avoided, but it is better not to address it directly. Instead of the phrase "because of the coronavirus pandemic", it would be more appropriate to use something like, "because everyone is isolated now".

Additional guidelines for communication:
• Communicate honestly, openly and recognizing the risk.
• Only refer to reliable sources.
• Respond to media inquiries and stay open.
• Communicate with compassion and care.
• Accept uncertainty, but suggest possible solutions.
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3. Set up procedures that are easy to follow
In order for the team to know how to act in a crisis situation, draw up a specific plan of action and make sure that everyone has received and understood it. Consider the timing of each stage, as well as the number of people to be involved.
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4. Assign those responsible
Each task in your plan should be delegated to specific employees, performance criteria should also be indicated so people will better understand what result to strive for.

In order for people to work as a team, it will be useful to conduct training using similar procedures, such as firefighter training, as a template. This can take place in rehearsal format –create some scenarios and try to reconstruct them.
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5. Assign the Rapid Action Team
  • Make a list of tasks and distribute them; make a database of contacts of those responsible among your team.
  • Hold regular meetings so you have an opportunity to monitor a situation that is constantly changing.
  • Be the primary source of crisis information as far as your organization activities are concerned.
  • Stay as transparent as possible in communication: you should explain that you know what information you still do not have and from what sources you take it.
  • During communication, it is worth formulating messages in a concise manner. The audience may not understand long monotonous messages written by medical professionals or lawyers, or even not read them at all.
6. Establish internal communication and regularly communicate with your employees
  • Employees are your most important audience, as well as your potential messengers to the outside.
  • Regular messages on a particular channel of information which is often used by all employees will help to realize this.
  • It will also be useful to describe how exactly certain decisions were made in the organization, and why processes like traveling or working from home will now take place in one way and not another.
  • Give your employees updates at least once a day, even if there is no news as such. Try to provide all the relevant information even if you do not know all the answers yet. This way the team will see your neutrality. It will also prevent possible misinformation or rumors.
7. Regularly inform your external audiences
Focus on data that may be important to your clients, partners, audience, and other stakeholders. If you can provide assistance or additional services, do so. In both your actions and communications, focus on empathy and support, instead of just promoting your topic.
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8. Keep your partners and donors abreast of developments
Communicate challenges for your organization during a crisis transparently. If you have lost a project or funding crucial for your organization, do not keep this secret. Instead, report what you are doing now to resolve the issue. Think about the long-term prospects and how to strengthen cooperation with different stakeholders.
9. Stay in touch with the local community
The population of the city and region where your organization operates is also an important audience that needs access to timely and complete information. Everything you don't say can be overinterpreted, so be transparent about what is happening in the organization, don't be silent.

You can also provide services to support low-income citizens from the local population. Using messages like "We are all experiencing this crisis together...", "Protecting most vulnerable people makes us stronger", "We are all better when we are all healthy...", you will be able to focus on mutual assistance and prevent stigmatization of those for whom the crisis will hit hardest.

Besides, you can use your influence and reputation to encourage others to help each other, especially people with chronic illnesses, the elderly and those who go on working and risk their health in order to overcome the crisis.
10. Analyze your actions
While communicating, it will be useful to constantly analyze the success of certain messages. If something doesn't work, change it on the fly. Get feedback, admit your mistakes and move on with improved messages.
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The Practice Guide was developed by
M.Sc., Ph.D.
Communication expert for social and behaviour change

Anastasiya Nurzhynska
Media manager and behaviour sciences researcher and co-founder of the Creative Lab and online magazine
Maria Fronoschuk