How to Improve Your Crisis Communications

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C‍risis Communications: Essential for Business Continuity

Crisis communications play a fundamental role in managing business continuity.

When unexpected situations arise, such as cyberattacks, natural disasters, or health crises, the way an organization communicates can make the difference between successful crisis management and a situation that spirals out of control.

In this article, we share 8 tips to improve your crisis communications in the context of business continuity.

Our goal is to work towards effective coordination of actions and communications, to ensure a swift return to business as usual!

1 – Leverage Your Organization's Existing Response Structure

Establishing a clear crisis communication plan is essential for a coordinated and effective response.

Your crisis communication plan should include:

  • The roles and responsibilities of each team member
  • The communication channels to use
  • The key messages to convey at each stage of the crisis

One of the first steps in planning your crisis communications is to familiarize yourself with your organization's existing response structure.

Your organization likely already has defined roles and responsibilities for key members during a crisis through its response structure.

This work provides an excellent starting point to ensure that your crisis communication plan aligns with your organization's current procedures.

The elements of the crisis communication plan should also be tailored to the organization's priorities. For example, some organizations prefer to communicate messages internally before they are made available externally, while others prioritize transparency in communications.

It's essential that the organization's culture is reflected in communications, even during a crisis.

The response structure can be found in your organization's business continuity plans or crisis management plans.

If you don’t have a response structure, at least take the time to study your organization’s organizational chart. It will help you align your crisis communication plan with your organizational structure.

2 – Clearly Define Your Crisis Communications Team

To create an effective crisis communications team, start by clearly identifying the roles and responsibilities of each member.

If the same role is assigned to multiple people or teams, designate a responsible leader to avoid overlap and confusion, especially if two departments have similar functions or if a key resource holds dual roles.

Ensure your crisis communications team remains agile, handles both internal and external communications, and can manage various incidents. The size and complexity of your organization will determine the number of team members needed.

Remember that every member needs to be aware of and trained to fulfill his or her role effectively.

3 – Identify risks and define categories of potential consequences

To develop a good crisis communications plan, it's crucial to know the possible risks and issues your organization could face.

Of course, there are many possible risks and issues. That's why we recommend grouping potential scenarios into consequence categories. We recommend an all-hazards / all-risks approach.

Here are some examples of common consequence categories:

  • Loss of sites, plants or offices (or loss of access to them)
  • Technological incidents
  • Loss of personnel, resources or key partners
  • Disruption to your suppliers

Once you've clarified your consequence categories, it will be easier and more logical to define approval procedures and processes.

4 – Plan your communications in advance

Whether it's to improve response times, improve coordination or reduce errors, there are many advantages to planning your emergency communications in advance.

Here are our recommendations for crisis communications planning:

  • Determine the level of detail to be communicated
  • Write clearly and transparently
  • Choose a tone that suits the audience and the organizational culture
  • Determine the right channels and number of communications
  • Adapt messages for different channels (e.g. level of detail, number of characters, visuals/photos, etc.)
  • Translate messages into the languages of your audiences

To increase your efficiency, we also suggest that you start with standardized, tried-and-tested templates. This will also ensure greater consistency throughout your communications.

5 – Use crisis communication tools

There are a range of crisis communications management tools to help you prepare.

Here are a few important tools for your crisis management strategy:

Business continuity management software

Business continuity management software centralizes all crisis management information, from prevention to recovery. This makes it easier to coordinate efforts and monitor actions in real time. Learn more about our business continuity management software, ParaSolution.

Emergency notification systems

Cyber incidents are becoming increasingly frequent. It is therefore important to plan alternative communication methods, for example if your organization can no longer use its main communication systems (such as Teams or Outlook).

Some continuity management software, such as ParaSolution, offers an alternative messaging service that enables alerts and updates to be sent rapidly to all members of the crisis management team and other stakeholders. These alerts can, of course, be scheduled in advance, and transmitted by SMS, e-mail or voice.

Collaboration platforms

You probably already use videoconferencing tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, as well as document-sharing platforms like SharePoint and Google Drive.

Continue using your current software to organize crisis management meetings, share real-time information, and coordinate actions effectively. Ensure that all stakeholders involved in crisis management are trained to use these platforms.

Media and Social Networks

Traditional media and social networks are invaluable for keeping your community informed about the evolution of a crisis or incident. Ensure that your communication strategy aligns with your team's current practices, minimizing the need for them to learn new platforms during an emergency.

6 – Document your crises

To improve your crisis communications, it's essential to meticulously document every crisis you experience. This includes events, decisions taken, communications sent, and results achieved.

By recording this information, you create a valuable knowledge base that can be used to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your response.

This documentation will also enable you to train your team in best practices and avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. For example, you can clarify communications for which you've received a lot of questions.

7 – Practice your plans and procedures

It's essential to regularly practice your plans and procedures. Among other things, exercises enable you to familiarize yourself with protocols, and identify areas for improvement.

By carrying out tabletop exercises or simulations, you can immediately see whether your emergency communications are adapted to each stage of the crisis and are understood by your stakeholders.

After each exercise, evaluate your performance by analyzing what went well and what could be improved. This critical evaluation is essential to fine-tune your strategies and ensure an effective response in real crisis situations.

Read our article to find out more: 7 benefits of managing your exercises with a business continuity software.

8 – Take crisis communication training courses

Training is an excellent way of improving your own crisis management and communication skills.

We recommend the following crisis communications training courses:

Crisis and Incident Management, from the Business Continuity Institute (The BCI)

Take this 2-day course to learn how to implement an incident response structure and develop crisis management skills.

More info here

Crisis Management and Communication Professional (CMCP), from ICOR

In this 3-day course, you will learn to analyze emergency situations and make difficult decisions with limited time, information and resources, while managing an incident and leading teams.

More info here

That concludes our advice on crisis communication

Don't hesitate to contact our experts if you have any questions about your crisis communications strategy!

We offer renowned crisis communication consulting services, thanks to the expertise of our multidisciplinary team based in Montreal for over 25 years.