Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a car accident?
What about, did you ever break a bone?
How about you broke a plate in the kitchen?
(I’ve done two of the three – I will let you guess which one I haven’t done…yet.)
The point is none of these things were planned, right? They were accidents – small moments of crisis – and we dealt with them and moved on. The same goes for your online presence and your business. Something bad may happen – you don’t mean for it to – but are you prepared to communicate if it does?
Every business needs a crisis communication plan – PERIOD.
This plan ensures you have a head start on communicating with the public, your clients, etc. in the event something goes wrong. In financial services, we MUST be prepared for things to go wrong. (It’s why we all have jobs, right?)
In recent events, can you imagine if Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida didn’t have a crisis communication plan? In our wildest nightmares, we think to ourselves a school shouldn’t be prepared to communicate such horror, but in fact – they do have a plan in place. It might be tweaked as you go along the experience, but a plan is needed nevertheless.
The hope (of course) is you never have to use this.
What should the crisis communication plan contain?
If you’ve never written a plan – the basics would include:
WHO: You need to be thinking about WHO will need to hear your message and HOW it sounds to each party. For example, think about your message from each point-of-view below:
- Survivors impacted by an event, like the death of a client or your death in the firm
- Community—especially neighbors living near the facility
WHAT: Your message needs to resonate with each audience by answering one simple question, “How will this event affect me?” You can plan out some pre-scripted words, but more than likely, this will need tweaking the moment an event happens. You might consider the following:
- What happens if the financial service professional in the office unexpectedly dies?
- What happens if the support staff has a traumatic event?
- What happens if a client’s claim goes wrong?
- What happens if someone questions your office’s morals, values, and ethics publicly?
These are just a handful of items. You should brainstorm different scenarios and be ready in the event something does.
WHERE: You’ve thought about the audience, the message, and now – where will you disseminate it? This could be:
- Printed letters
- Social Media
Knowing where you will put the message comes with its own list of tasks and to-dos.
WHEN: How soon after an event will you put your message out? Do you need to consult an attorney first? Be sure you have a timeline on how to handle each event maybe using the examples I provided above.
When should the crisis communication plan be reviewed and updated?
At the very least you should be reviewing your plan each year. When you prepare your annual business statement, mission and value statement, website review, etc. add this to your list and make sure you update the date on the document.
The document should be accessible to any team member who needs to do their part in putting the plan into action.
Be a Person of Action: Our government has a really great website page on how to do this exercise and I highly recommend any business owner to check this out. Make sure this isn’t something you put off until something bad happens and you’re ill-prepared to handle the event.