Internal Communications

How to Create a Crisis Management Plan

By Phil Manzano

Updated:

In order to effectively manage a crisis, businesses must have a comprehensive crisis management plan in place. This plan should outline strategies and tactics that can be used to respond quickly and effectively to various challenges. Such a plan can help minimize damage and protect the bottom line during difficult times.

When a crisis lands on your lap, will your company be prepared?

Developing a crisis management plan is essential for any business. This can help avoid costly mistakes, damage to the company’s reputation, and financial losses. But it takes more than sending a few updates to the team and having a backup plan. You have to think about crisis communication, risk management, legal considerations, and more.

To help you prepare, we’ll take a look at the essential steps to creating a comprehensive crisis management plan that can help your business emerge from any crisis situation, as well as some suggestions for the types of contingencies you should plan for. By taking the time to map out a crisis management plan now, you can be sure that your business will be ready when disaster strikes.

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What Is a Crisis Management Plan?

Let’s start at the beginning.

A crisis management plan is, as the name implies, a plan that you create with the intention of managing any and all crisis scenarios. The first step in creating a crisis management plan is to gather information about your company’s environment (both internal and external) so that you can identify all potential threats. And you need to know how these situations could affect your business. And finally, you need to know how to use internal communications to inform your team.

Difference between crisis management and crisis communications

The primary difference between crisis management and crisis communications is that the former involves the development of specific plans and strategies to address potential threats. The latter focuses on communicating with key stakeholders during a crisis situation.

In addition, while both involve anticipating and responding to potential risks, crisis communications also involve addressing any public fallout or negative perceptions associated with these situations.

Finally, crisis management typically involves a broader range of stakeholders, such as customers, employees, regulators, and industry partners. Crisis communications tend to be more focused on media relations and other external stakeholders.

Here’s an example to illustrate the difference:

Let’s say a company has experienced a data breach. Their crisis management plan may involve strategies to minimize the impact. This can come in the form of updating security protocols, communicating with customers about the situation, and working with local authorities to address any legal or regulatory requirements.

On the other hand, a company implementing a crisis communication plan might focus on communicating openly and honestly with the media during a product recall or public scandal. This could involve working with key stakeholders like investors, customers, employees, and industry partners to manage the situation and address any negative perceptions or reputational damage.

Overall, while both crisis management and communications are important aspects of corporate risk management, they each have their own specific roles and objectives. And it’s crucial for companies to understand the differences between these two strategies in order to effectively address any potential threats and manage public perceptions during a crisis situation.

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How to Create a Crisis Management Plan

The elements of a crisis management plan

Crisis management will typically involve a thorough risk assessment to identify all potential threats and vulnerabilities, as well as strategies for addressing these issues. Key elements of a crisis management plan may include:

  • Risk assessment: This involves identifying key stakeholders, assessing the level of risk associated with various threats or incidents, and outlining specific mitigation strategies.
  • Communication plan: This may include strategies for communicating with employees, customers, partners, and other key stakeholders during a crisis situation. This might also involve developing clear messaging to address any public fallout associated with the event, otherwise you may end up facing other internal communications challenges.
  • Contingency plan: This includes specific steps your company will take in order to recover from a crisis as quickly and effectively as possible. For example, you may develop a detailed backup plan for your computer systems, or identify external suppliers that can help you address any supply chain disruptions.
  • Audit and training: Finally, it’s important to regularly review and update your crisis management plan to ensure that it remains effective over time. This might include regular incident response drills or employee training sessions to keep everyone on your team up-to-date on the latest crisis management best practices.

Regardless of what eventually ends up in the plan, you should also spend some time figuring out the best way to communicate this type of information on an ongoing basis. Will you start an internal newsletter using some employee newsletter templates? Or does your company mass text employees via SMS? Find the solution that works best for your team and be consistent with it.

If you’re struggling to create content for your crisis management plan, try using ContactMonkey’s OpenAI ChatGPT integration to help get you started. Simply write a prompt describing what you’d like your plan to accomplish, generate example text, and then edit it for your specific needs. Using ChatGPT for internal communications lets you build out important documents fast, then refine the content as you have time for a better finished product.

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6 Steps to follow when creating a crisis management plan

  1. Establish a team. A crisis management plan should be developed by a cross-functional team that includes representatives from various departments and levels of the organization. This will help ensure that all stakeholders are involved in the planning process and can contribute their expertise as needed.
  2. Conduct a risk assessment. In order to develop an effective crisis management plan, you first need to understand the key risks and vulnerabilities that your company could face. This may involve conducting a thorough risk assessment that identifies key threats and evaluates the potential impact of these incidents on your organization.
  3. Determine the impact. Once you have identified the key risks facing your company, you need to clearly assess how each incident could impact your business. For example, what are the financial costs associated with a prolonged network outage, or how would a data breach affect customer trust and satisfaction?
  4. Plan the response. Once you have identified the risks and potential impacts, you need to develop clear strategies for responding to and recovering from these incidents. This may involve developing detailed contingency plans for various scenarios, establishing communication protocols with key stakeholders, or proactively training employees on how to respond during a crisis situation.
  5. Solidify the plan. In order for your crisis management plan to be effective, it’s important to regularly review and update it over time. This may involve conducting regular incident response drills or running employee training sessions on various crisis scenarios.
  6. Review and update. Finally, it’s important to regularly review and update your crisis management plan in order to ensure that it remains effective over time. This might involve updating the risk assessment as new threats emerge or evaluating the effectiveness of your response strategies after a crisis has occurred. With regular updates and ongoing training, you can help keep your organization prepared for any crisis situation that may arise in the future.

How to update your crisis management plan

  1. Review the risks that your organization currently faces, and identify any new threats or vulnerabilities that may have emerged over time.
  2. Gather input from key stakeholders across the organization, including representatives from different departments and levels within the company. This can easily be done with employee feedback software for the most efficient process. This will help ensure that all perspectives are considered as you develop your plan.
  3. Identify the potential impacts that each crisis scenario could have on your organization, including any financial costs, reputational damage, or other negative outcomes.
  4. Develop clear strategies for responding to different crises and recovering from any incidents that may occur. This might include developing detailed contingency plans for various scenarios, establishing effective communication protocols with key stakeholders, or training employees on how to respond during a crisis situation.
  5. Review and update your plan over time to ensure that it remains effective and well-adapted to the evolving risks faced by your organization. This may involve incorporating new data from risk assessments, conducting incident response drills, or running regular employee training sessions on various crisis scenarios.

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10 Crisis Management Plan Ideas to Use

1. Financial loss: One of the most common types of crisis events that companies need to plan for is a financial loss, such as an unexpected cost increase or decrease in revenue. Some strategies you may want to include in your crisis management plan could include contingency funding, budget reallocation, and restructuring and downsizing plans.

Your goal with this plan is to ensure that your organization is able to remain financially viable in the event of a financial loss. This means having a clear understanding of your organization’s financial resources, current and projected costs, and ways to reduce expenses while maintaining operations.

2. Technological failure: Another common risk that businesses face is a technological failure, such as a software or hardware malfunction. Your crisis management plan should include steps for mitigating this risk, such as establishing backup systems and testing your technology regularly to ensure it can be restored quickly in the event of an emergency. Depending on the severity, you might even consider using a text alert system or other mass notification system for business to ensure you have everyone’s attention.

With this plan, your aim is to minimize the impact of a technological failure on your organization and ensure that you can continue operations with minimal disruption. Without this preparation, an unexpected technical failure can lead to major losses in terms of data, customer trust, and operational efficiency.

3. Natural disaster: A third type of crisis that businesses must plan for is a natural disaster, such as a fire, flood, or earthquake. Your plan could include steps such as creating an emergency response team to coordinate recovery efforts and securing insurance coverage for property damage and business interruption.

Your goal with this plan is two-fold: to ensure that your organization can respond quickly and effectively in the event of a natural disaster, and to make sure that your organization can remain operational afterward. Of course, you also want to have safety protocols in place to protect your employees and customers during an emergency.

4. Operational changes: Another important aspect of crisis management planning is preparing for changes in operations, such as a merger or acquisition, restructuring, or business closure. This was seen a lot in coronavirus crisis communications as companies navigated new territory. Your plan should include steps for communicating these changes to employees and stakeholders, as well as strategies for maintaining operations during the transition period.

With this plan, your aim is to ensure that the organization is able to manage any operational changes with minimal disruption. Doing this will help ensure that your organization can remain productive and profitable during the transition period.

5. Organizational mishap: A final type of crisis that businesses need to be ready for is a human error or organizational mishaps, such as an employee misconduct scandal or data breach. Your plan should include measures for addressing these issues, such as implementing policies and procedures to prevent future incidents and handling any public relations fallout.

Your goal with this plan is to ensure that your organization is able to minimize the damage caused by any organizational mishaps. The last thing you want is for a minor incident to become a major crisis that has long-term consequences.

6. Regulatory changes: Another challenge that companies often face is dealing with regulatory changes, such as new laws or standards. Your crisis management plan should include steps for staying up-to-date on industry regulations and assessing how they could impact your business in the event of a crisis.

With this plan, your aim is to ensure that your organization can remain compliant with industry standards and minimize any potential disruptions. While this might not seem like a crisis, it can have major implications for your business if not addressed in a timely manner.

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7. Data breach: A final challenge that companies often face is a data breach, which can put private customer information at risk and cause significant damage to the company’s reputation. Your plan should include strategies for preventing cybercrime and responding quickly in the event of a data breach, such as establishing clear cybersecurity policies and conducting security audits regularly.

Your goal with this plan is to ensure that your organization can protect customer data and maintain its reputation in the event of a data breach. There have been many cases where businesses have suffered long-term damage due to a data breach, so it’s important to be prepared and take the necessary steps.

8. Reputational damage: In addition to the specific types of crisis events your plan should address, it’s also important to include strategies for protecting your company’s reputation in the event of a crisis. This might include establishing clear communication protocols and social media guidelines, as well as monitors and responding quickly when negative news reports, customer complaints, and other issues start to arise.

Your goal with this plan is to ensure that your organization can manage any reputational damage and maintain its public image in the event of a crisis. There are plenty of examples of companies that have seen their public image suffer due to mishandling of the situation.

9. The threat of litigation: Another challenge that businesses often face is the threat of litigation. Your plan should include steps for protecting your company from lawsuits, as well as strategies for responding quickly and appropriately in the event that litigation does occur.

With this plan, your aim is to ensure that your organization can mitigate the risk of litigation and minimize any potential damages. This can include establishing clear policies and procedures, creating a corporate compliance strategy, and conducting regular audits.

10. Employee injury or death: A final challenge that businesses need to be ready for is an employee injury or death. Your plan should include steps for addressing this situation, such as providing assistance to employees and families during the recovery process and outlining clear policies on workplace safety.

Your goal with this plan is to ensure that your organization can provide proper support in the event of a crisis and maintain its commitment to protecting the health and safety of employees. It’s important to be prepared for these types of situations. They can have a lasting impact on the company and its employees. 

Depending on the type of crisis to which you’re responding, you may not need to send an organization-wide communication to address it. Custom email lists help you target only relevant recipients, reducing the number of emails your employees receive.

Using ContactMonkey’s List Management feature, you can easily create your own custom email lists without needing help from IT. Lists created with ContactMonkey can integrate with your Human Resource Information System (HRIS) like Workday and ADP, as well as Azure Active Directory, so they’ll automatically update as employees join and leave your organization.

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Using Internal Communications as a Key Part of Crisis Management

Whether you’re preparing for a potential crisis or responding to an existing one, effective internal communications is critical. This includes communicating with employees about the situation and keeping them informed of any changes or updates. It also includes providing clear guidance on how the company is responding and what employees can do to help.

ContactMonkey’s template builder can help you create and send internal communications quickly, enabling you to respond efficiently and effectively in times of crisis. With our template builder, you can customize emails and newsletters with your company’s logo, colors, and fonts, as well as easily add images or gifs to make the communication more engaging.

Fine tune your crisis management plan by getting started with ContactMonkey today with a free demo.

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