Communication Leadership

Why your organization needs a crisis communication plan

Crisis Communications Planning

In today’s social climate, organizations that overlook the very real reputational and business performance threats facing them are taking on significant risks that could be mitigated – if not avoided altogether – by thoughtful preparation.

Both corporations and individuals sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion, always with severe consequences. Loblaw's price fixing, Facebook's data breach, and United Airlines' negligence resulting in the death of a pet are just a few examples of recent high-profile reputation-damaging incidents. In addition, the #MeToo movement continues to expose perpetrators of sexual misconduct in both the private and public sector. News travels fast and bad news travels faster.

With reputation-defining situations becoming more apparent every day, many organizations are taking the necessary steps to prepare for the inevitable.

The best predictor of your success in managing a crisis is the extent to which you are prepared for the crisis. – Jamie Watt, Executive Chairman, Navigator Ltd.  

A crisis communications plan

Fortunately, there is a way to anticipate and navigate reputation-defining situations. It involves the foresight to approach these threats with the seriousness they deserve and the discipline to prepare for them. An effective crisis communications plan allows firms to manage media coverage appropriately, ensuring their messages are conveyed accurately and that they are equipped to counter any false information that surfaces. This plan ensures a readiness and resilience for leaders to control and manage reputation-defining situations.

A well-developed crisis communications plan includes risk assessment, determines an organization's greatest vulnerabilities, and prioritizes threats. It's able to convey to both employees and customers the steps necessary to respond effectively to a crisis.

Elements of a strong strategy

As part of any crisis communications plan, a spokesperson for the organization is chosen, a consistent message to be delivered is identified, and the means by which that message will be communicated is selected. An incident response team may also be formed with clearly designated responsibilities. Roles include social media manager, team lead, employee relationship manager, and customer go-between. Each team member must have a clear understanding of what is expected from him or her and how they will work with each other.

During a crisis situation, time is of the essence. The plan should include crisis response timelines and messaging guidelines for communication with various stakeholders throughout the duration of the crisis. A method for how to monitor and control messaging on social media is critical, and a strategy for announcing the resolution of the crisis must be included. Mock crisis exercises are able to expose gaps and areas for improvement which might otherwise be overlooked.

Develop and implement your own crisis communications plan

No one can predict the future or know what type of crisis will hit – and when. What forward-thinking leaders can do is learn from the mistakes of others and plan for reputation-defining situations while they still have the luxury of doing so.

The Ivey Academy has partnered with Navigator Ltd., Canada's leading high-stakes communication firm, to provide a proprietary program focusing on how to manage reputation capital and protect your corporate reputation during crisis. The Toronto-based, two-and-a-half day program – Crisis Preparation & Reputation Recovery – is instructed by a team of professors, business leaders, and communication experts. Program participants work through simulations, hands-on exercises and case studies from a variety of stakeholder perspectives. This holistic approach allows participants to identify and leverage the opportunities and challenges associated with a crisis in order to prepare and implement communication strategies that build trust with the stakeholders who matter most. You leave knowing exactly how you will apply your new knowledge and skills, armed with a self-developed plan that’s ready to be implemented once you’re back in the office. For more information, download the Crisis Preparation & Damage Control brochure.


About The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School
The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is the home for executive Learning and Development (L&D) in Canada. It is Canada’s only full-service L&D house, blending Financial Times top-ranked university-based executive education with talent assessment, instructional design and strategy, and behaviour change sustainment. 

Rooted in Ivey Business School’s real-world leadership approach, The Ivey Academy is a place where professionals come to get better, to break old habits and establish new ones, to practice, to change, to obtain coaching and support, and to join a powerful peer network. Follow The Ivey Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.