As a business owner, you probably learned quickly that you should always expect the unexpected. Or, to put it another way, if it’s not one thing it’s another. 

But what if the unexpected isn’t just annoying or an inconvenience? What if it is serious? 

In the public relations field, we call a serious type of unexpected event a crisis – and you should take the time now to plan for a crisis because it isn’t if one will happen, it’s when

What can you do today to be prepared for a crisis in the future? Here are three things the CSR team recommends:

  1. Make a plan
  2. Make sure everyone knows what the chain of command is 
  3. Make templates for everything and keep them in a safe place

Make a plan

Big or small, every business should have a crisis plan in place – and that plan needs to be written down. It doesn’t do you any good to have something all in your head – because what if you aren’t there for the crisis? (Crises have a bad habit of popping up when key players are out of town or on vacation). 

Don’t know where to start in writing down your crisis plan? CSR can help – we love planning and we love creating plans that are actionable and clear. 

Make sure everyone knows what the chain of command is 

When things are going smoothly, a flat or fuzzy chain of command is fine. But when something bad happens a clear top-down chain of command is best. (You can always go back to a flatter organizational structure once the crisis passes.)

The reason a structured hierarchy is essential during a crisis is so all information coming into the organization and all information being communicated by your business is consistent and properly vetted. It’s important that your message is consistent at all times and that no one is going rogue. 

Even if you have a strong organizational chart for standard operations, it is essential to create a special crisis communications org chart for use when the going gets tough. This is another area where CSR can help. 

Make templates for everything and keep them in a safe place

The worst time to create anything is in a panic when everyone is stressed and worried. This is why we recommend making templates for EVERYTHING that you think you may one day need during a crisis. 

For example, you can create a template for:

  • Press releases
  • Blog posts
  • Internal emails to all staff
  • Internal text messages to all staff
  • Emails to key clients/patients/customers 
  • Emails to investors or funders

Having these drafted and approved ahead of time means all you have to do is plug in the specific facts about that particular crisis and hit publish or send, without being slowed down waiting for approvals. In the current environment of 24-hour news and people tweeting first and getting the facts later, time is always of the essence when communicating during a crisis.

Interested in learning more about crisis communications? Check out this recent post on SpinSucks.com about why you should always think about the customer’s point of view during a crisis. 

Casie Yoder
Casie works directly with clients on big picture communications strategies and helps them tactically implement marketing plans to help them grow and scale. Prior to joining CSR, Casie founded her own consultancy Casie Yoder Consulting in 2016 to help start-up, small business, and non-profit clients communicate more strategically online and in the press. Before that, she managed the ultimate start-up: a political campaign. She spent more than five years in Washington D.C. working on state and national policy issues in communities across the country, focusing on communications and publicity. She was then selected from among hundreds of applicants to be the first Public Information Officer for the City of Decatur, where she not only shaped and maintained the ongoing communications strategy but also managed crises ranging from weather to crime. Casie graduated from Georgia State University in 2008, where she studied journalism and public relations. Since then she has received a certificate in Local Government Management from the University of Georgia. As an ADL Glass Leadership Institute member, an organizing committee member of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and a supporter of the nonprofit and education sectors, Casie prioritizes giving back to her local and professional community.