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How to Write a Crisis Communications Plan? Use Pre-Written News Releases

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Two of the most popular crisis communication searches on Google are for these questions:

  • How to Write a Crisis Communications Plan?
  • Do I need a Crisis Communication Plan?

As I sit writing this, I also have an expert eye on the television, where a real crisis is playing out. A massive explosion at an industrial facility has rocked a community and there is no official statement from the company after more than four hours.

Yes, every company needs a crisis communications plan.

Take this quick test:

  • Could a workplace shooting happen where you work?
  • Could an executive be accused of sexual harassment?
  • Could someone be killed or injured in the workplace?
  • Could a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane, earthquake or snow storm affect your operations, your employees, and/or your customers?

If you answered yes to any one of the above questions, you need a crisis communication plan. Chances are, you answered yes to all four questions. You need a crisis communication plan.

This is part three or our New Year’s series. Today we look at the third step out of the five steps to effective crisis communications.

Step 3: Pre-Written News Releases

For every vulnerability discovered in your Vulnerability Assessment that we discussed in Step 1 two weeks ago, you should write a pre-written news release. When writing a crisis communication plan for my clients, each organization is given an immediate library of 100 pre-written news releases from my personal library of news releases.

Last week in Step 2: Write Your Crisis Communications Plan, we discussed the importance of being specific in your instructions. One of those should be that within one hour or less of the onset of a crisis going public, your organization should issue a statement to the media, your employees, and other key stakeholders. The secret to fast communications is to have a library of pre-written news releases.

Your Pain, Problem & Predicament

At most organizations, when a situation ignites into a crisis, these things consistently happen:

  • Everyone is consumed by the “fog of war.”
  • Someone sits at a computer, opens a blank Word Document, and they begin to write a news release or statement.
  • After 30 minutes to an hour, the writer presents the statement to a group of executives.
  • The executives fight over the language and debate commas. This often goes on for up to an hour.
  • The writer crafts draft two, based on the feedback.
  • A second review happens with more changes.
  • A final statement is drafted, approved, and released.
  • On average, three and a half hours have passed.
  • While the statement was being written, the media have been speculating, employees have been engaged in rumor sharing, social media has turned public opinion against your organization, and your organization’s revenue, reputation and brand have taken a hit.

Stop

Stop being a part of the same vicious cycle we have witnessed since the dawn of the industrial age.

Start

Start at the beginning of this year to formulate and execute a system that can sustain your organization for decades to come. Start implementing the five steps to effective crisis communications.

Begin now. Today could be the day you have a crisis.

Set dates on your calendar now for when you plan to implement each of the five steps of effective crisis communications.

Your goal should be to do the hard work on a clear, sunny day, so that you are not in a panic of indecision on your worst day.

When you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

When you fail, prepare to see damage to your organization’s revenue, reputation, and brand.

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 Campaign Creators on Unsplash

How to Write a Crisis Communications Plan Part 2

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

As we enter the third full week of January, we’ll look at how to write a crisis communications plan. If you’ve followed these articles and videos since the beginning of the year, you know that you are being challenged to abandon news year’s resolutions in favor of consistency in behavior, not just for this year, but throughout the life of your organization.

Think of crisis communications expertise as a five step process, called the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. Think of a crisis communications plan as number three of those five steps.

This week we look at the heart of your crisis communications plan. This is the written document that is the instruction book that one would follow to know exactly what to do, when to do it, to whom specific tasks are assigned, and how fast those tasks must be completed.

  • What to do.
  • When to do it.
  • Who does it.
  • How fast must it be done.

As for what to do, the crisis communications plan must outline how you gather information, confirm that information, and then disseminate that information.

  • Gather information.
  • Confirm information.
  • Disseminate information.

While those are the foundational elements, getting it perfect is difficult and time consuming. When writing my first plan, I put 9 months of work into the document. All these years later, that base document allows me to customize crisis communications plan for clients in five hours. But it was the outrageously hard to get the first plan written, so be patient. Forgive yourself on those days when you want to give up. Also, recognize that if you have other daily tasks to perform, finding the time will be a huge challenge.

Add two other goals to the process of writing your crisis communications plan. Aim to make the plan as thorough and detailed as possible, such that nothing falls through the cracks, yet make it so simple to follow that anyone who can read can execute it.

  • So thorough that nothing falls through the cracks.
  • So simple that anyone who can read can execute it.

Do not make the crisis communications plan simply a policy manual. Instead, make it a document that the lead communicator actually reads and follows in real time during a crisis. What does that mean?

Most crisis communications plans I’ve read are six page documents that say basic things such as, “Consider if you need to call a news conference.” Instead, list the conditions in which a news conference would be called, pre-determine multiple locations where it could be held, identify who your potential spokespeople will be, identify who will write the news release, outline the approval process, and outline the steps needed to prepare for the news conference.

  • News conference parameters.
  • Pre-determine locations.
  • Pre-determine potential spokespeople.
  • Pre-determine who will write the news release and press conference script.
  • Outline the approval process.
  • Outline the steps for a news conference rehearsal.

The fatal flaw with most crisis communications plans is that they are so vague, they require people in the organization to make too many decisions on the day of the crisis. This leads to arguments, debates, and delays.

The more specific your plan, the more terrific. For example, designate a timeline for completing each task. My plans state that a public statement needs to be released within one hour OR LESS, from the onset of the crisis going public. Most organizations take from three to four hours to release their first statement because 1) decisions have not been pre-made and 2) because news releases are not pre-written.

The secret to speedy communications involves relying on pre-written news releases. That is the third step in the five steps to effective crisis communications. We’ll tackle that next week.

In the meantime, take a look at your calendar and map out time for when you will tackle the task of writing your crisis communications plan. If you have questions, use this link to schedule a free 15-minute phone call with me to talk about your needs. If you wish to tackle this task on your own I’ll provide guidance and answer your questions. If you want me to carry the burden for you, in two days I can help you customize a plan and provide you with 100 pre-written news releases. The option is yours to decide which is best for you.

Which ever way you choose, make your crisis communications plan a priority. Aim to finish it in the first three months of the new year.

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

How to Get Crisis Communications Training on Your 2020 Calendar

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

December is filled with end of year meetings, budget reviews, and overall wrap up of your budget year. Not to mention your calendar is booked with office parties, gift-giving, and a to-do list the length of your arm.

That’s why January is the time to plan your crisis communications strategy for 2020. Before you just stroll in to the New Year and get back to the grind, let your C-suite, your executives, your public relations team, your communications staff know in DECEMBER that there will be crisis communication training and media training on the books EARLY in 2020. If you need help explaining this to your staff and team members, view this video:

Start by learning about the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. Now is the time to encourage your team that they can spread the project out into manageable tasks over the four quarters of the year. A free 5-part video series is online here to get you started:

  • Quarter 1 is the time to conduct your Vulnerability Assessment, which is Step 1. Mid-Quarter 1 is the time to write your Crisis Communications Plan, which is Step 2.
  • Quarter 2 is the time to write Pre-written News Releases as Step 3, based on your Vulnerability Assessment.
  • Quarter 3 is when you should conduct Media Training as Step 4, based on the pre-written news releases you have written.
  • Quarter 4 is when you should conduct your Crisis Communications Drill, which is Step 5, based on completion of all of the previous steps.

Once you make the commitment to more effective crisis communications, I’m here to help you achieve your goals and I’m standing by to be your accountability buddy. When you sign up for the free 5-part video series, you’ll be given a chance to schedule a free 15-minute phone call with me to help you set your goals.

If you are the type to take the bull by the horns, and if you are ready to put things on the fast track, Steps 1, 2 and 3 can be completed in as few as two days with my fully customizable crisis communications plan system.

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 Brooke Lark on Unsplash

When is the Flash Point of a Crisis?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

In crisis communications, experts will tell you that speed is important. As a benchmark, in every crisis communications plan I write, the organization is expected to issue their first statement about their crisis within one hour or less of the crisis becoming known to the public. This can be considered your flash point.

In the world of fire and combustion, the flash point is that moment in which the heat rises to a level at which a flame is generated.

Apply this thinking to crisis communications. Think of there being two types of crises:
1. A Smoldering Crisis
2. A Sudden Crisis

A smoldering crisis can be compared to a bunch of oily rags in a hot garage. It takes a while for them to get hot. When they reach a certain temperature they start to smoke and smolder. As the temperature goes up further it all bursts into flames. We have a flash point.

A sudden crisis can be like a lightening bolt striking a house. The flash point is instantaneous. A sudden crisis can also be compared to striking a match. The flash point is instantaneous.

So in crisis communications, a smoldering crisis may be something such as an accusation of embezzlement or executive misbehavior. Internally a complaint may be filed or questionable practices may be uncovered and exposed. Certain internal decision makers know of this potential crisis, but the outside world does not.

In this type of smoldering crisis, the crisis communications team should receive a confidential briefing and they should immediately prepare a statement for all stakeholders. But initially, the organization is under no obligation to immediately issue a statement. The organization has time to decide their crisis management response, i.e. will the suspect employee be fired, suspended, etc.

The crisis management team also has a number of considerations.
• Whether this information can be kept private or if there is a high probability that the outside world will find out
• Sometimes, there is a legal obligation to tell the outside world
• Sometimes legal authorities are involved

In this type of smoldering crisis, the organization determines the flash point, defining it as the moment that they issue a statement to stakeholders, such as employees, the media, stockholders, customers, or any of the many variations of stakeholders.

If you fail to create your own flash point, your organization runs the risk of an outsider triggering the flash point, which immediately positions your organization in a defensive posture. Triggering the flash point yourself usually earns you more credibility with your stakeholders.

In a sudden crisis, the flash point is determined by the crisis. If your organization experiences an explosion, the flash point of the explosion is the flash point of your crisis and triggers your crisis communications clock. That clock is the mandate to issue a statement to the outside world within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis.

In the 5 Steps to Effective Communications, all 5 steps come into play regarding flash points.
1. During your Step 1 Vulnerability Assessment, you should identify the sudden crises and the smoldering crises.
2. In Step 2 as you write your Crisis Communications Plan, you must spell out your response behavior options based on whether you experience a sudden crisis or a smoldering crisis.
3. In Step 3 when you write your library of Pre-written Statements, the wording must consider the type of language used in a smoldering crisis versus the types of sentences you might use in a sudden crisis.
4. In Step 4, when you conduct Media Training, your spokespeople should be taught how to conduct a news conference and an employee meeting for both sudden and smoldering crises.
5. In Step 5, when you conduct your Crisis Drill or exercise, don’t fall into the trap of always holding an exercise that only deals with disasters and sudden crises. Mix in some smoldering issues as well.

Whether the flash point of your crisis is slow or the flash point of your crisis is sudden, effective crisis communications helps you put the bad news behind you so you can move on to recovery.

Should you need my assistance to accomplish any of the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, you can register for the 5 video course on the right hand sidebar of this blog, or reach me at 985-624-9976.

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

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5-Day Crisis Communications Challenge Synopsis

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

In January 2019, you were issued a dare to participate in the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications Video Course. Some of you have taken the challenge and you’ve become expert communicators. Some of you kicked the can down the road. No worries can-kickers. You can become a crisis communications expert in the four remaining months of 2019.

Last week, we issued a 5-Day Crisis Communications Challenge. With only four months left in 2019, you are being challenged to focus on your crisis communications plan with crisis preparation, crisis practice, and ultimately, a focus on how you can be the expert who achieves crisis perfection. Just take one day, one step at a time, viewing these five brief videos and articles to help you get moving in the right direction.

On Monday, we discussed what a Vulnerability Assessment is, and why you need to start writing down every sort of situation that could become a crisis that would cause you to generate a possible crisis response for your organization.

Crisis Plans, Crisis Preparation, Crisis Practice & Crisis Perfections = Crisis Communications Expert

On Tuesday, we talked about how to begin managing your communications with a crisis communications plan, and the differences of those crisis plans that don’t work (think checklists), versus ones that really work.

How to Write a Crisis Communications Plan That Works?

On Wednesday, we discussed the importance of writing pre-written news releases and how to write the perfect news release to address every item listed on your Vulnerability Assessment.

How to Write News Releases for Your Crisis Communications Plan?

On Thursday, we discussed what happens when you do not send out a spokesperson to release a public statement within the first hour of a crisis, and media training tips for the spokesperson you select.

How to Media Train a Spokesperson for a Crisis?

Finally, on Friday we explained what a Crisis Communications Drill is and how to conduct a realistic, effective drill for your organization, in order to practice on a sunny day, what your organization might face on their darkest day.

How to Do a Crisis Simulation Exercise?

There they are. The steps you need to take to move in the RIGHT direction. The steps you need to be BOLD and start the conversation in your organization no one is willing to have. Watch the videos, share the videos, share the articles with your colleagues who could benefit from them.

Oh, and the dare to complete the 5-step video course still stands. I challenge you to take 10 minutes a day for five days to watch, learn, then implement the five steps. Register with this link.

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:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

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

NFL Super Bowl 2019: Is the NFL in Crisis?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

On last week’s BraudCast we asked you if the NFL is in a crisis. In this week’s BraudCast video we share your answers.

By my standards, a crisis is anything that can damage a brand’s reputation and revenue. Keep this crisis definition in mind as you watch this week’s video, which shares answers from our viewers.

As you think about the NFL and their potential crises, what are the potential crises for your brand?

In our 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications free online course, we point to Step 1 – your Vulnerability Assessment. Just as the NFL needs to conduct a Vulnerability Assessment, you should be doing the same thing at your company. The new year is a perfect time to kick off the practice.

To learn more about Vulnerability Assessments and the other four steps, sign up for our free 5-part video series.

I’d love to know what vulnerabilities you identify for your organization. Take advantage of the free phone call offered in the 5-Steps video series. We can talk about what your vulnerabilities are and how you can either eliminate them or prepare a crisis communications strategy to deal with them.

This question is one of a series of debates in the media relations, crisis communications, public relations, and social media industries where you and your colleagues can share observations with each other. Yes, YOU are invited to share your bite size bits of best practices. Here is how:

Step 1: Subscribe to The BraudCast on YouTube

Step 2: You will see a short video that poses a new question every Monday. You then post your best practices and observations on The BraudCast YouTube channel.

3: Once your opinion is shared, you can follow the discussion online so you can compare your best practices to those of your professional colleagues.

Step 4: Watch the Follow up Friday Video where you will see a short YouTube video outlining some of the most interesting observations. Yes…your comments may actually show up on our BraudCast video, bringing you world-wide fame, fortune, a big raise, glory, street parades, and more.

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge. Please take 2 seconds now to subscribe to The BraudCast.

5 Ebola Crisis Communications Considerations

By Gerard Braud

5 Ebola Considerations Gerard Braud

Watch this video

Your personality type may decide the fate of your crisis communication response if the Ebola crisis touches your company (or the company for your work for.) On one extreme is the personality that says, “It’s too soon. Maybe we should watch it and wait and see.” On the other extreme are those who say, “Heck, let’s get prepared. I’d rather be prepared and not need it than to be in the weeds if it hits us.”

If one of your employees gets Ebola or is perceived to possibly have Ebola or may have come in contact with an Ebola patient or a place where an Ebola victim has been or has come in contact with a person who came in contact with an Ebola victim, then the crisis now affects you.

Here are 5 Ebola Crisis Communication Considerations:

1) The Need is Real

EBOLA webinar Gerard BraudThe crisis may touch your organization because of a person who is actually ill or because of rumors or hysteria. Either option may really happen, forcing you into reactive communications mode. You’ll need solid internal employee communications and customer communications. You’ll need external media relations. You’ll need to fight the trolls and naysayers on social media. Why not start planning your strategy and messaging now? My belief and experience is that you can anticipate nearly every twist and turn on a clear sunny day, in order to manage effective communications on your darkest day.

2) Ask for Help

Many CEOs and executives hire one person to manage their image. Often they will hire a marketing specialist, never realizing that marketing is not public relations, media relations, or crisis communications. Fearing reprisal from their leadership, some people in our allied fields would rather try to disguise their lack of knowledge rather than ask for help. But in the C-Suite, the reality is the boss wants you to speak up and say, “I need help. This is beyond my level of expertise.” Most people in the C-Suite, while never wanting to spend money they don’t have to spend, realize that getting help from an expert could preserve their reputation and revenue. Don’t try to fake it. That will ultimately cost you your job, as well as the company’s reputation and revenue. Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer to that.” Ask for help.

3) Tie Ebola Communications to Business ROI

Preparing for communications you may or may not need will cost either time or money. It may cost both. But communications preparation can pay for itself.

Here are just a few considerations of doing nothing:

  •  The cost of rumors
  •  The cost of a single case linked back to your organization
  •  The cost of a cluster of cases linked back to your organization
  •  The cost of becoming synonymous with Ebola
  •  The cost of worker illness and lost productivity
  •  The cost of your company going out of business

Communications about precautions is step one. It may quarantine patient zero in your organization and keep the virus and negative news from spreading, saving the company huge sums of money in all of the categories listed above.

Crisis communication workshop gerard braud4) Plan Now

Don’t wait until you are in the middle of your crisis when you are forced into reactive mode. Proactive mode is the sign of a public relations professional. Now is the time to review your crisis communication plan and to determine if it is Ebola-ready. For some of you, now is the time to write that crisis communications plan that you have never written. Now is also the time to write messaging templates for before, during and after an event. Plus now is the time to conduct media training for potential spokespeople and to conduct a crisis communications drill. Response should be planned and never reactive.

5) Be Opportunistic

If you haven’t been able to get a seat at the table or get executive attention in the past for crisis communications, consider this your golden opportunity.

Opportunities to discuss crisis communications with the CEO and the leadership team do not happen often enough. It takes a crisis that hits all businesses equally to sometimes get their attention. The feared Y2K crisis in 2000 caused CEOs to write checks for millions of dollars, mostly to IT experts. Other companies used it as a reason to develop a small part of their crisis communication plan. Sadly, it was usually targeted at only Y2K issues. The H1N1 threat in 2009 once again got the attention of executives to the extent they were willing to give staff time and money to do what needed to be done.

The opportunity for crisis communication planning and crisis management planning is once again upon us because of Ebola. Now is the time to initiate discussions with your executives. It is also useful to seek partners from other departments. Human Resources, operations, international travel, and risk management departments all will need to manage various portions of this crisis. Each are wonderful partners who may already have a seat at the table and who already may have the knowledge and skill to get the time and money needed to accomplish your tasks.

In the coming week I’ll share more lessons and insight with you. On Friday, October 17, 2014, I’ll host a live discussion via webinar. Sign up for FREE with this link. On November 5 & 6, 2014 I’ll host a workshop in New Orleans that will allow you to create a 50 page crisis communications plan with up to 75 pre-written news releases. You’ll walk out of the workshop with a finished crisis communication plan and the skill to write even more pre-written news releases.

Social Media When It Hits the Fan: Follow-up for NRECA Connect 14 Conference

By Gerard Braud

Here are your Free Crisis Communications Plan resources we discussed during my NRECA conference presentation in San Antonio last week.

Gerard Braud NRECA 14

Free Resource #1

To download a Free copy of the First Critical Statement used in my Crisis Communications Plan, use the coupon code CRISISCOMPLAN when you select the item from my shopping cart.

Free Resource #2

To see what a bad Crisis Communications Plan looks like, visit the resource page at CrisisCommunicationsPlans.com to download a copy of the Virginia Tech Crisis Communications Plan.

If your plan looks anything like this document, you need a new plan.

Free Resource #3

Because I had to head to the airport right after the presentation, I wanted you to be able to schedule a private phone call with me this week to ask any additional follow up questions or to discuss issues too sensitive to discuss during the presentation. My phone number is 985-624-9976 and my e-mail is gerard@braudcommunications.com Please e-mail me to schedule a call time during the week.

Free Resource #4

I’ve published numerous blog entries about Social Media and Crisis Communications. Here are a few links that you will find beneficial. More will follow in the next 2 weeks. You may wish to use the sign up box in the upper right corner to make sure you receive the next few articles.

Social Media for Crisis Communications: Effective Communications for Critical Times (Like When “It” Hits the Fan)

Social Media for Crisis Communications: Are You a Social Media Hypocrite?

Social Media for Crisis Communications: Social Media Relationships Before Your Crisis 

Social Media for Crisis Communications: The Social Media Listening Post in Crisis Communication