On November 30, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook Southcentral Alaska, shutting down power, landlines, and several major roads. However, fewer than 24 hours later, Anchorage was back on its feet, with stores reopened, Internet available, and residents able to communicate and even commute. I even enjoyed a beverage from my favorite espresso drive-through fewer than five hours after the ground heaved and buckled.
Crises like natural disasters beg the question: why do some businesses and organizations recover quickly, while others don’t? How does a large-scale company like GCI organize and mobilize its workers and technicians to get communities back online in so short a time? The answer is a well-rehearsed crisis communication plan. When everyone in an organization knows exactly how to react in a given situation, recovery is easier and more organized.
Creating a plan need not be a long and arduous ordeal. Putting together a simple list of directions helps employees know their company is prepared for any sort of disaster. And crisis communication plan isn’t just for natural disasters. For instance, if a company higher-up makes an embarrassing faux pas, protocol is in place for handling it. This can mean anything from rules about social media posts, to responsibilities for handling questions asked by journalists.
Employees need to know the plan exists, and how to access it. It doesn’t matter if everyone is aware of action required if they can’t find the directions. While some companies provide a crisis plan as a Google doc, or even in email, if Internet goes down these files may be inaccessible. Having an old-fashioned hard copy of the plan solves this problem. It takes a bit more time, but implementing a few redundancies ensures everyone who needs it has access to information.
That said, it’s not enough to just have a plan in place. Rehearsing the plan outside of a crisis situation is key to performing well in a real crisis. If a company has a protocol in which employees call a centralized number or person to report their safety, it helps focus efforts to help those who don’t check in. Simple plans such as this can literally save lives.
A perfect crisis plan does not exist. What people create should be tailored to the industry and people working in it. In PR, for instance, a crisis plan may include helping clients implement their own crisis plans. In the end, putting a plan in place and being prepared is bound to pay off when disaster strikes.