So, they put you in charge of crisis communications!

You’ve been tasked with developing a Crisis Communications Plan (CCP) ... great!  You know it will help your company during times of trouble. Except, what exactly is a Crisis Communications Plan and where do you begin?

In its basic form, a CCP helps manufacturers navigate communications with various audiences, such as employees and community officials, during a crisis such as a plant fire or employee accident.

But it can ... and should ... be so much more.

First, a CCP should help the company think through and prioritize the types of crises that can arise. For manufacturers, trouble often stems from plant accidents and shutdowns.  But in today’s frenzied social media and political environment, manufacturers are required to think beyond the obvious.

  • What if operations fail or are shut down by a cyberattack?
  • Or your company is “held hostage” by overseas hackers seeking ransom?
  • What if it comes under public attack because parts are supplied to a country that is no longer in favor with the United States?
  • Or if customer banking information is compromised?
  • Or an executive is recorded making sexist remarks? Or caught embezzling?
  • What if an employee (or group of employees) accuses your company of racial profiling?
  • Or a boycott is organized?

This list goes on and on.

Even companies that are wrongly accused must defend themselves in the court of public opinion or risk the spread of unabated false rumors and accusations.

A good CCP provokes your team to think beyond “traditional” crises such as plant fires. It insists they consider the types of incidents emerging today, from cyberattacks to social media mishaps.  These are often on the periphery of our vision, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Indeed, hundreds of U.S. companies were targeted and held hostage last year by nefarious foreign players. Today, manufacturers—and their crisis comms leaders—must be prepared for anything.

Once potential incidents are codified and prioritized, the CCP should provide the tools necessary to communicate effectively with all audiences affected by the situation. The goal is to clarify facts, get your side of the story told and get the crisis behind you as quickly as possible with the least reputational damage.

Some of the tools a CCP should provide include:

CrisisComm_Icons__TalkingPoints Talking points for crises most likely to arise and for those with the highest damage potential. CrisisComm_Icons__MediaStatementPrewritten media statements.

CrisisComm_Icons__CommsFlowChartA communications flow chart indicating who needs to be told, and when.

CrisisComm_Icons__AudienceMatrixAnd a matrix of all audiences with whom the team will need to communicate. These may include:

  • The company’s leadership team
  • Board of directors
  • Employees
  • Families of employees
  • The news media
  • Social media audiences
  • Community leaders
CrisisComm_Icons__EscalationDecisionGridAn escalation decision grid, outlining critical steps at each level of the crisis.
CrisisComm_Icons__SocialMediaPlanA plan for managing social media channels during a crisis.

A crisis can arise out of nowhere in no time.  It can knock even the best of us off our game if we’re not prepared. A well-constructed Crisis Communications Plan won’t make you bulletproof. But it will make your team crisis-ready.  It will provide specific and prescribed guidance every step of the way, including all of the tools needed to think through the unthinkable and respond effectively.

For more information, send inquiries to