“Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead, You Can.” That’s the theme for National Preparedness Month which is September. This is certainly timely in light of the recent hurricanes that plowed through Texas and Florida. We watched as city and state officials prepared citizens for the approaching storms.
When any type of emergency occurs, the need to communicate is immediate. And, when it comes to your business, you will have many audiences who will need information delivered to them quickly and clearly. We work with clients all the time in developing crisis communications plans. It’s something no one ever wants to think about, but it’s also in my experience that those who do, and have a plan in place, can get through the crisis or disaster and are able to recover faster.
Here are four tips on how to ensure better communication during a disaster.
Appoint a Disaster Communications Team
Choose specific employees who are willing to be a part of a disaster communications team. This group will help develop the plan, be trained on how to implement emergency plans for specific events such as tornadoes, hurricanes or a fire, and be the point people for information before, during and after an emergency. Include specific responsibilities to specific employees such as internal communications, media relations, company spokesperson, etc. When everyone understands ahead of time what role they play, it will be much easier to mobilize.
Make a List
What do you need to keep your business running during and after a disaster? Begin developing a detailed list of everything your company needs from client information to the technology you use every day. Think about the worst-case scenarios from an office fire to a flood and everything you would need to keep your business running as normal as possible.
Create a Communication Plan
Email blasts, text messages, Facebook posts, voicemail broadcasts – think of how you will get crucial messages to your employees and customers. Your plan should include several ways to reach your audiences along with sample messages for different scenarios. When a crisis hits, you may not have time to draft messages. Have templates of press releases, employee communications and customer communications at the ready; this will make it much easier when time is short.
Develop Scenarios and Test Your Plan
Because a specific crisis can’t be predicted, develop crisis scenarios and test how you would work through them. This is a good way to find the kinks in the plan and fix them when you have the time to do so. For example, if your plan includes having employees work off-site, make sure that your IT allows for that. This might be a good opportunity to consider moving your systems to the Cloud.
During a disaster, one of the biggest issue businesses face is communication. If communication breaks down, even the best laid plans will go to waste. Careful planning will make all the difference in the world and help you and your company weather the storm.
-Cassi Steurer, Communications Strategist