Crisis Communications Overview
While it may be hard to imagine navigating a devastating crisis, such as a natural disaster or pandemic, it is important to be calm and confident as you lead your organization through an unforeseen challenge. Preparation is a key component to feeling in control when things go upside down.
As marketers and communicators, we are comfortable within a “plan, launch, report” mentality, but when a crisis hits, we are move into a responsive/reactive mode.
Throughout all stages of Crisis Response, it is important to remember to follow the Four Cs:
Our communications and marketing materials must be clear to all audiences, instill a sense of confidence in leadership, support our credibility to respond to a crisis, and must always convey correct information. To support those principles during an ever-shifting landscape might be challenging; for example, what may be correct one day, may change with little notice, hence the value of having clear communications channels and distributed work structure so updates and correction can be made widely as quickly as possible.
Tips for Communicating During a Crisis
- Use plain language (no jargon, short sentences, lower reading level)
- When possible, group updates together
- Version control, version control, version control – date communications, archive drafts and old information immediately
- Set clear and rapid approval structures, focus this as much as possible
- Be clear on communication channels, what is posted where and who has the ability to update information quickly
How to Make Your Crisis Response Plan
There are many great resources and courses on Crisis Communications. A key tool of a Crisis Response is your planning document. Understanding the various components required allows you to build one quickly or repurpose a template/sample.Your Crisis Response Plan should:
- Identify goal(s)
- Identify stakeholders
- Provide information / approval structure
- Outline required messaging and materials (see below)
- Include Key Messages and FAQ
- Highlight potential risks
Examples of Messaging and Materials
- Downloadable notice signs that can be updated and printed in-location
- Signage for Book Returns if required
- Closure notices for all social media platforms (check specs)
- Web banners / images
- Media Statement / Advisory Template
- Press Release Template
- Key Messages
- Closure Notice copy (website / social media / phone)
- Out of Office Email Sample
- Phone script samples and upload instructions
Make sure to refer to the Crisis Communications and Marketing Checklist attachment to see what materials you need at each stage of a Crisis Response.
Review the social media samples in Section 3 to see how visuals and messaging can shift throughout the stages of a crisis. For many organizations during a crisis, social media is the most effective way of communicating urgent information quickly. It will also become a much more significant customer service tool during a closure.
Be conscious of how you use visuals during this time. For example, as you approach reopening libraries, ensure that stock images reflect a new visitor experience, such as physical distance between visitors and staff.
Avoid using “alarming” colours, such as red or orange for signage unless the information is related to urgent safety notices. Ensure that signage is clear and concise, and incorporate high-contrast colours to help readability.