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PR Crisis Communications Kit - How-To Guide

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Your Problem

You need to prepare your organization for a crisis, and need to learn best practices for getting the job done.

Our Solution

A crisis communications plan is the first line of defense for your organizations reputation, and in some cases can actually help save the lives of your employees themselves.

In this How-To Guide you will discover how to:

Build your Crisis Communications Team
Empower them with a step-by-step plan for any crisis
Describe exactly who they should contact and when
Explain the entire crisis management process from start to end


Throughout this guide we will also be linking to ‘Resources’, in the form of ‘Tools’, ’Templates’ and ‘Checklists’ you can leverage to prepare your organizations crisis response. With these resources and processes in your company's tool belt, you can rest assured that if a PR-related emergency occurs, you will be ready to protect your brand from disaster, and guard your employees from harm.

Key Benefits

leverage PR Crisis Communications best practices
understand the five stages for any crisis response
links to 24 additional PR Crisis tools

Published in: Marketing
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PR Crisis Communications Kit - How-To Guide

  1. 1. 3 8 Introduction The 5 Step Crisis Communication Action Plan 4 14 Preparation in Advance of any Crisis §  Build a Crisis Communications Plan §  Create a Crisis Communications Team §  Monitor Changes to the Plan Step 5 – Monitoring the Media Table of Contents 15 Final Thoughts © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide 2 16 Acknowledgements 17 About Demand Metric 10 Step 1 – Initial Assessment of Crisis 11 Step 2 – Notifying the Crisis Team 12 Step 3 – Managing Crisis Communication 13 Step 4 – Preparing Crisis Messaging
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION You never know when disaster will hit your public relations (PR) team, and when it does, is your team prepared? A crisis communications plan is as important as a fire extinguisher in the hallway of your office, the firewall for your computer network that keeps hackers out or the insurance plan on your property that protects your assets. If your organization is fortunate it will never need to use one of these safety nets, but emergency plans are still an important insurance on your ability to respond to a crisis situation where every decision, every moment, second or minute is absolutely critical. Public relations is no different; your organizations public image and brand must be protected by a crisis plan when something goes wrong, and the media or family members of employees get involved. A crisis communications plan is the first line of defense for your organizations reputation, and in some cases can actually help save the lives of your employees themselves. In this How-To Guide you will discover how to: •  Build your Crisis Communications Team •  Empower them with a step-by-step plan for any crisis •  Describe exactly who they should contact and when •  Explain the entire crisis management process from start to end Throughout this guide we will also be linking to ‘Resources’, in the form of ‘Tools’, ’Templates’ and ‘Checklists’ you can leverage to prepare your organizations crisis response. With these resources and processes in your company's tool belt, you can rest assured that if a PR-related emergency occurs, you will be ready to protect your brand from disaster, and guard your employees from harm. © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 3Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  3. 3. PREPARATION IN ADVANCE OF ANY CRISIS Being proactive is the over-arching goal in preventing and managing any crisis. When a crisis appears, you will want everything ready to react immediately without hesitation. When it comes to crisis communication there are three key goals you will need to take to truly be prepared for a future crisis: I.  Use Templates and Resources to build a Crisis Communications Plan – Your first goal will be to get a document prepared that will guide your organization during any crisis. II.  Create a Crisis Communication Team – Your next goal will be to establish a complete crisis communication team that is prepared to work together to follow and administrate that documents policies and procedures. III.  Monitor changes to the plan over time – Your final goal is an on-going one; to monitor the document over time, and record any updates or changes to the document itself. © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 4Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  4. 4. BUILD A CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS PLAN © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 5 Using our ‘Templates’, ‘Checklists’ and ‘Resources’, your first goal is to build a Crisis Communications Plan that you can share with the entire organization, and establish a policy for how the company will respond to any crisis. You should start by building out the crisis communications plan based on our resource called the ‘Crisis Communications Plan’ Template. This plan follows the five steps in the Crisis Communications Action Plan (which we will review in more detail later in this How-To Guide). The main plan itself should be anywhere from 20-30 pages long. The first few pages should give an overview of how to handle a crisis, and the rest of the document should provide detail on how each of the five steps are executed. It’s also a good idea to include a glossary of industry terms for both media and internal use, as well as compiling industry facts and statistics for later use when writing messages as a response to a specific crisis. RESOURCES: •  ‘Crisis Communications Plan’ Template Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  5. 5. CREATE A CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS TEAM © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 6 With a Crisis Communication Plan in hand, you will need a team to execute the policies within the document. This team is a very important part of your readiness for a crisis, and securing the best people for each position should be a significant priority. If necessary, consider external resources to fill any internal HR gap. You will need to assign the following roles to the crisis team: •  Crisis Communications Team Leader •  President/CEO •  Public Relations/Communications •  Senior Advisors/Vice Presidents/Department Heads o  Finance o  Government Relations o  Human Resources o  Investor Relations o  Operations o  Safety •  Legal Counsel/Advisor RESOURCES: •  ‘Crisis Communications Organizational Chart’ (Hierarchy of Command) •  ‘Crisis Communications Team Framework’ (Roles and Responsibilities) Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  6. 6. MONITOR CHANGES TO THE PLAN © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 7 Once the Crisis Communications Plan document is completed, and you have a team in place to execute its policies during a crisis, you will need to ensure that any changes made to this document are monitored and recorded. Indicate any changes to the plan on a review chart, including what changes were made and what date they were approved. Using our ‘Crisis Communication Plan Review Chart’ helps avoid confusion, and is also helpful when updating existing employees on what has changed since the last time they reviewed the crisis plan document. You should also setup an on-going scheduled review of the plan. This could be monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly or at the very least, annually, and focused on ensuring the contents of the plan are still valid, discussing how successful the plan was as a post-mortem for any crisis, as well as discovering any additional content that could be helpful if included in the document. RESOURCES: •  ‘Crisis Communications Plan Review Chart’ Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  7. 7. 5 STEP CRISIS COMMUNICATION ACTION PLAN Crisis Communication Plans manage all communication before, throughout and after a crisis. You will need to be prepared to deal with the media, key stakeholders in your organization, family members of employees, and your overall working team themselves. The following five step action plan (Figure 1) is designed to help everyone in your company adhere to the correct policy and procedures, understand what steps they should take in the correct order, and help everyone understand their role throughout the crisis. 1.  Initial Assessment of the Crisis – In this first step, you will need to figure out what has happened and collect all the data and facts available about the crisis to share with the Crisis Communications Team Leader. 2.  Notifying the Crisis Communications Team – In the second step, the Crisis Communications Team Leader will take over the emergency response, determine the level of the crisis, and by following the approved crisis plan, will coordinate the Crisis Communications Team to respond to the situation. 3.  Managing all Crisis-Related Communications – During step three, both on-site and off-site communications will be managed, including internal updates, beginning a crisis journal, assigning spokespeople to the crisis and setting up an off-site media area (if the crisis is large enough). 4.  Developing, Approving and Releasing Messages – For step four, all collected ‘facts’ must be verified and assembled into scripted key points to address various audiences and groups, that will be released upon internal approval. 5.  Monitoring and Responding to the Media – In the final step, you will need to evaluate how the media is covering the crisis, including local responses, and monitoring any social media, blogs, comments or forums for comments reflecting public opinion. © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 8Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  8. 8. 5 STEP CRISIS COMMUNICATION ACTION PLAN If the crisis is critical, these five steps can occur within just a few hours, and may need to be repeated as the crisis unfolds. Each step must be prepared as much as possible in advance, similar to a fire drill for evacuating during an inferno, so that when a public relations crisis does indeed happen, the entire company is on the same page on how to respond accordingly. © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 9Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide Evaluate the handling of the crisis coverage, recognize trends in opinion and storyline. Develop, approve and release messages for different audiences and groups proactively. Managing Crisis Plan consistent internal updates, begin a crisis log and assign a spokes- person. Notifying Crisis Team Outline the level of the crisis, and meet with the entire crisis team to co- ordinate activities. Initial Assessment Determine what has happened, and collect data and facts available. 01   02   03   04   05   Preparing Messaging Monitoring Media Figure 1: Our Five Step Public Relations Crisis Communication Plan
  9. 9. STEP 1 – INITIAL ASSESSMENT OF CRISIS The first action step is to determine what has happened; and there may be plenty of questions that need to be answered. To give you a great head start, leverage our ‘Crisis FAQ’ Template for some important questions to ask including, “When did this happen?” and “How was the incident discovered, by whom and when?”. You will need to add your own questions to this list related specifically to your industry and organization. If the crisis involves a physical location, you will need to co-ordinate with the site of the incident to ensure someone is managing the communications at that location, and providing any additional insight. While you determine what has happened, you should actively be collecting all data and facts available so you can understand what exactly is going on to begin with. At this time, a holding statement, media response, press release or press statement is prepared in accordance with your organizations ‘Media Response Policy’. Ultimately, the most important part of the initial assessment is to inform the Crisis Communication Team Leader (CCTL) immediately and share all of the information you have gathered for them so far about the incident. RESOURCES: •  ‘Crisis FAQ’ Template •  ‘Media Response Policy’ Template •  ‘Holding Statement for Media’ Template (with Example) •  ‘Press Release’ Template © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 10Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  10. 10. STEP 2 – NOTIFYING THE CRISIS TEAM By the second step of this action plan, the Crisis Communication Team Leader (CCTL) has been notified and is now managing the crisis communications on behalf of the organization. The Crisis Communications Team Leader (CCTL) will first determine the level of the crisis (using the approved crisis policy document). Next, the CCTL contacts all team members required to be on alert with the current crisis level, and schedules a conference call to discuss the crisis, as well as any next actions required. RESOURCES: •  ‘Crisis Level Chart’ •  ‘Crisis Communications Organizational Chart’ (Hierarchy of Command) •  ‘Crisis Communications Team Framework’ (Roles and Responsibilities) © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 11Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  11. 11. STEP 3 – MANAGING CRISIS COMMUNICATION During the third step of the action plan, the Crisis Communications Team must coordinate communication with people both on-site and off-site. For managing off-site communication the Crisis Communications Team (CCT) must plan consistent internal updates on the crisis, as well as recognize key groups for messaging (such as families, stakeholders and media). They will need to begin a crisis inquiry journal from the public and/or media. They will also need to assign a spokesperson(s) for the crisis to interact with each key group (families, media etc.) The CCT must also manage all on-site communication. This starts with recognizing who the main on-site contact will be, and then setting up a location for a communications operations center. Be sure to clarify on-site hours of operation and staffing throughout the crisis. It is important to establish an offsite media area immediately, as well as to arrange a family/employee area away from media. Once the media arrives, it is almost impossible to move them somewhere else. RESOURCES •  Off-site communication: •  ‘Key Audiences and Groups Crisis List‘ Template •  ‘Key Audience and Groups Crisis Questions’ Template •  ‘Crisis Communications Team Schedule’ •  ‘Crisis Inquiry Journal’ Template •  ‘Spokesperson Designation’ Template •  ‘Spokesperson Procedures Guide’ Template •  ‘Topic Matter Expert Contact List’ •  ‘Media Contact List’ •  On-site communication: •  ‘Crisis Procedures for Family Members ‘Template •  ‘Crisis Procedures for Media’ Template © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 12Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  12. 12. STEP 4 – PREPARING CRISIS MESSAGING The fourth step in the action plan is focused on building, approving and releasing specific messages to key groups and audiences. It all starts with building messages by verifying all data collected are indeed facts, and then assembling a script with key points. You should prepare a list of crisis-related questions different groups could ask (partners, organizations, media, families etc.) and then adapt pre-scripted messages or make new messages for the crisis. Be ready to speak to the company’s reputation for the crisis situation. It is also important to establish how the company will deal with questions about the CEO or senior management’s unrelated behaviors (such as politics, past stories etc.). By using our included resources you can find the best messages to deliver, and then observe the crisis and renew messages based on how the predicament unfolds. Once you have messages ready for each audience, it’s time to get approval to release the messages by the following key people: Crisis Communications Team Leader (CCTL), Legal Advisor, On-site Manager and CEO (Chief Executive Officer). You may need to revise based on feedback, and then complete the messages for authorized release to each specific audience. In the highest crisis levels, which indicate a serious problem, the CEO should deliver the message directly. All approved messages being released must be coordinated by the CCTL. RESOURCES: •  Build Messages: •  ‘Holding Statement for Media’ Template (with Example) •  ‘Crisis Messaging Map’ Tool •  ‘Key Audiences and Groups Crisis List‘ Template •  ‘Key Audience Groups Crisis Questions’ Template •  Approve/Release Messages: •  ‘Holding Statement for Media’ Template (with Example) •  ‘Messaging Approval Form’ •  ‘Crisis Messaging External Notification List’ •  ‘Crisis Messaging Internal Notification List’ © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 13Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  13. 13. STEP 5 – MONITORING MEDIA RESPONSE In the fifth and final step of the action plan, your Crisis Communications Team must evaluate the handling of crisis coverage by the media. You should pay close attention to any media channel that asked about the crisis directly, and follow up with how they respond (what they write, show etc.) You should also examine local media responses (near the site of the incident) to ensure you are not missing any geographically relevant response. The team will also need to assess responses by national and industry-related media outlets, as well commit to on-going internet related searches for related keywords including monitoring social media, blogs, forums, chat rooms and comments for public sentiment regarding the incident. Company or crisis team members should never respond to public comments, unless it was on a website, which was designated for this purpose, and only with legal approval for each comment to protect future litigation. The Crisis Communications Team will need to recognize trends in both opinion and the storyline that is actively being discussed in public. It’s important to consider questions such as “What topics are the media focusing on?”, “Is there any change in the media’s focus or topic matter?” and “Is there any pattern that could shed light on a topic to address?” Your team will need to discover public and key stakeholders, as well as define major issues addressed via the media, including the questions or issues being presented. Lastly, your team will need to bring everything learnt into the on-going crisis planning process, and utilize and highlight all lessons learnt for future planning purposes. This includes soliciting feedback from management/employees outside of the crisis team. RESOURCES: •  ‘Crisis Coverage Checklist’ •  ‘Story Trends and Stakeholder Issues Checklist’ © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 14Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  14. 14. FINAL THOUGHTS Being prepared for an unexpected crisis simply makes your organization stronger and more capable for surprise. Having a good crisis communications plan is a great sign of both strong teamwork and proactive thinking in any company. To reap these rewards, there is a lot of initial preparation work to be completed, and a strict maintenance routine to be installed, to ensure the plan continues to be ready when it is needed. To save you lots of time, please leverage the additional included resources; you will immediately have the groundwork in place for a very capable crisis communications plan. We hope you never need to use this PR emergency action plan, but if you ever do, you can be assured that having your plan will be just like having have a fire extinguisher in the hallway, sprinklers on the ceiling and an evacuation procedure in place to respond to any public relations crisis you may ever face. RESOURCES: •  ‘Crisis Communications Plan’ Template •  ‘Crisis Communications Plan Review Chart’ © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 15Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  15. 15. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This How-To guide and the included resources are in part, based on the teachings, books and research of Dr. Tim Tinker, and Dr. Vincent Covello, both recognized global specialists in the field of of risk and crisis communication. © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 16Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide
  16. 16. ABOUT DEMAND METRIC Demand Metric is a global marketing research & advisory firm serving a membership community of over 75,000 senior marketers with primary research & benchmark reports, technology research & advice, consulting services, training, virtual events, and a library of 500+ practical tools & templates. Demand Metric’s core focus is to help B2B Marketing organizations improve internal capabilities and connect their activities to revenue growth. To learn more about Demand Metric, please visit: www.demandmetric.com. © 2016 Demand Metric Research Corporation. All Rights Reserved. License our research to fuel your content marketing programs. Contact us at info@demandmetric.com or +1 (866) 947-7744 17Public Relations Crisis Communications Kit – How-To Guide

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