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How to Write a Crisis Communications Plan? Start With a Vulnerability Assessment

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

“How to write a crisis communications plan” is a popular search topic for public relations professionals at the beginning of a new year. If you are one of those people, EXCELLENT! You are off to a great start for the year.

To achieve your goal, you may want to adopt the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications approach. These are 5 steps that you can take this year, which you then repeat elements of year in and year out, with the goal of achieving continuous improvement and great business continuity.

Step 1 – before you can actually start writing your Crisis Communication Plan – is to conduct a Vulnerability Assessment. I encourage you to watch the companion video to get more details. (And because we are sharing more great tips all year, it would be wise to subscribe to the weekly BraudCast so you don’t miss any of our lessons.)

What is a Vulnerability Assessment?

A Vulnerability Assessment is when you list out all of the many situations that could reach the flash point of becoming a crisis.

How do you define a crisis for Crisis Communications?

A corporate or organizational crisis can be defined as any situation that escalates to the point at which it causes damage to an organization’s:

  • Revenue
  • Reputation
  • and Brand

So grab a spreadsheet and start listing out the many situations within your organization that could damage your Revenue, Reputation & Brand.

The easy place to begin would be natural disasters and weather events. Next, consider emergencies such as fire, explosions, and workplace violence. From there, add executive misbehavior and criminal activities. Issues with workers, such as injuries, fatalities, or labor activity, need to be included. Don’t forget cyber attacks and cyber issues. Also in your list should be all of the many ways that social media can create a crisis. Many brands have had their revenue, reputation and brand damaged by either something they’ve posted to social media, or by something a social media user posted about the brand/organization.

Include Others in Your Vulnerability Assessment

A great way to get buy-in from the C-Suite is to conduct executive interviews. Ask members of the C-Suite what issues they see within the company that could damage the organization’s revenue, reputation, and brand. This is also a great way to get a seat at the table. Executives appreciate and take note of those who take the initiative to protect revenue, reputation, and brand.

Go Big

If you want to go big, organize a facilitated event in which each department sends representatives to discuss possible vulnerabilities unique to their department. I’ve facilitated many of these around the world and it is always eye-opening to see what vulnerabilities teams list, for which the C-Suite has no idea of the company’s exposure.

Prevent a Crisis

Sometimes, simply exposing these vulnerabilities allows an organization to change business practices, policies, or procedures in order to eliminate a potential crisis. An eliminated vulnerability NEVER becomes a crisis.

Your Crisis Communications Roadmap

Once your Vulnerability Assessment is completed, it becomes a roadmap for the next four steps, including:

Step 2: Writing your Crisis Communications Plan

Step 3: Writing a library of Pre-Written Statements

Step 4: Identifying crisis topics for your annual Media Training

Step 5: Identifying crisis topics for your annual Crisis Drill

Get to work.

Next week, we’ll move to Step 2: Writing your Crisis Communications Plan.

If you need help and would like to have a free 15 minute strategy call, use this link to schedule some time with me

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Agence Producteurs Locaux Damien Kühn on Unsplash

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