By Gerard Braud
There are many articles throughout this blog about what makes for a good crisis communications plan. I believe so many documents that proport to be crisis communications plans fall far short of what is needed to effectively communicate when “it” hits the fan.
A great way to find out if your crisis communications plan is up to par is to test it with a crisis communications drill.
During a crisis, anxiety is high, tensions run high, and pressures can be enormous. During times like this, it is easy for important things to fall through the cracks. However, if you write them all down on a clear sunny day and organize them in sequential order, then you have the foundation for a good crisis communications plan. Furthermore, if you can easily read them during your crisis and follow the pre-ordained steps, you are able to achieve effective communication.
I don’t know of anyone else who tells you to read your crisis communications plan during the crisis. That may be because most crisis communications plans only list the rule of standard operating procedures. Most plans fail to be organized chronologically with clear directions that you can read and follow during your crisis. My prescription is to have a plan written with clear directions and follow it every step of the way throughout your crisis communications drill.
This important step accomplishes several goals. First, you get in the habit of carrying your communication plan with you. Secondly, you learn to trust your plan and trust that in your worst times it will guide you toward a brighter conclusion. Thirdly, if there is a flaw in your plan, your crisis communications drill will expose that flaw, allowing you to make important rewrites.
Keep in mind also that the tools of communication change constantly. This means your crisis communications plan needs to be a living document. What worked during last year’s drill may need to be revised this year because the tools of communication have changed. Just look at how in recent years, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube went from being non-existent to being available but irrelevant, to being a vital consideration and important communications tool in a crisis.
A crisis communications drill is designed to let you screw up in private on a clear, sunny day, so you don’t screw up in public on your darkest day. The same is true for your plan. Discover any flaws on a sunny day and fix them before your darkest day comes.