In Disaster Management, Communication Is Key

From BP and its Gulf oil spill to Paula Deen and her restaurant scandal to GM and its recent recalls, no company is immune from a potential brand-related disaster. Obviously, the scope and nature of these three examples vary, but the overall results with regard to the brand are the same: Loss of trust in the brand and a consequent loss of revenue.

Knowing how to respond to these situations is the key to reducing the chaos that can follow. That means you need a communication plan to calm nerves and let the public know the steps you're taking to address the issues. If your emergency response plan doesn't include a plan for communication, it should. Here are a few ideas to help you develop a communication strategy for your business:

Point of contact

First, you need a "point person," someone who understands your business and can respond to media inquiries and public concerns. A PIO is a good choice for larger companies, but smaller companies without separate media relations staff can appoint someone from their staff to serve the same role. Just be sure the person has a calm personality so they aren't drawn into defensive arguments.

Method of contact

Develop a list of local and media personnel to contact in case of a disaster, then decide: Would your company issue a press release? Hold a press conference? How would you respond to phone calls, emails or comments on social media sites? What would the general tone be? Also be sure to communicate to employees how they should respond to inquiries about the company in the wake of an event.

Performance measures

Throughout the process, you need to be able to gauge your effectiveness in handling the situation, as well as the ability to change your methods and approach as need to ensure your company is responding appropriately.

The scope of an emergency response plan can vary greatly based on the size of the business and the risks it faces. But no matter what size business you own or operate, a communication plan can play an important role in mitigating loss following a disastrous event.

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