crisis management prIn this age of Twitter and smartphones, a business must be prepared to handle a PR crisis in real time with a sound plan. A crisis can hit at any time and having a plan in place ensures that your business is ready to handle any type of crisis.

Delta Airlines is the latest corporation in a crisis. Delta is increasing security and the FBI is investigating since people were injured on flights from Amsterdam to the United States due to needles found in turkey sandwiches.

“There are two kinds of companies: those that have had crisis, and those that will.” – PR Week 1999

Here are a few tips to build a crisis communication plan.

Build a Crisis Communication Team. Appoint members of the crisis communications team and schedule meetings to create the plan. Set tasks for each team member. Meet every few months to review and update the plan as necessary.

Identify the Possible Crises. Gather members of the company to brainstorm and define what types of crises could happen and determine the proper actions to take by the company. What crises have happened in the industry? Has a competitor had a crisis? What did they do right? What did they do wrong? Also note your company’s history and track record so you have a reference point.

Appoint a Media Spokesperson. Designate the media spokesperson for the company for each type of crisis defined. There could be different spokespeople depending on the type of crisis. The spokesperson should have media training and have access to all of the information in real time as the situation develops. The spokesperson needs to be honest, accurate, responsive and compassionate.

Establish a Plan. Once you have a list of possible scenarios, flush out an action plan for each scenario and assign roles and responsibilities for the team and departments. Identify stakeholders that are affected by each situation. How will you collect the information when a crisis occurs? How will you distribute the information to the team?

Communicate through Proper Channels.  Establish response strategies for each scenario and audiences affected by the crisis and which team members will handle the communications. Don’t forget your employees are one of your audiences in every situation.

Check the Message Pipeline. Who will create and distribute the response –  who is responsible for updating the website, blog, social channels, email distribution, calls/response to media, etc. Will you have internet pages ready to “turn on” in the event of an emergency?

Schedule Test Runs. Set up alarms and check preparedness internally with a few different scenarios.

Being prepared can help a company through even the most difficult situations.

The Public Relations Society of America has started a pilot project in five business schools to teach MBA students how to handle crises and manage corporate reputations.

Image via PR Geek blog