This step of Ready Business provides direction for developing a crisis communications plan.
Understanding the audiences that a business needs to reach during an emergency is one of the first steps in the development of a crisis communications plan. The crisis communication or business continuity plan should include documented procedures for notification of suppliers. Communications with government officials depends upon the nature and severity of the incident and regulatory requirements. Human Resources (HR) is responsible for the day-to-day communications with employees regarding employment issues and benefits administration. Another important element of the crisis communications plan is the need to coordinate the release of information.
Another important goal of the crisis communications plan is to move from reacting to the incident, to managing a strategy, to overcome the incident. The crisis communications team, consisting of members of the management team, should operate in an office environment to support the contact and information centers. Resources should be available within the primary business site and provisions should be made to set up similar capabilities within an alternate site in case the primary site cannot be occupied. The business continuity plan should also include procedures to ensure that customers are properly informed about the status of orders in process at the time of the incident.

HR should also coordinate communications with those involved with the care of employees and the provision of benefits to employees and their families.
Close coordination between management, company spokesperson, public agencies and HR is needed when managing the sensitive nature of communications related to an incident involving death or serious injury. Using this input, the crisis communications team can inform management about the issues that are being raised by stakeholders.
If business operations are disrupted, customers will want to know how they will be impacted. A business must be able to respond promptly, accurately and confidently during an emergency in the hours and days that follow. Businesses that fail to notify a regulator within the prescribed time risk incurring a fine. The risk assessment process should identify scenarios that would require communications with stakeholders.
When there is an emergency or a major impact on the business, there may be limited information about the incident or its potential impacts.
Management needs to develop the strategy and the crisis communications team needs to implement that strategy by allaying the concerns of each audience and positioning the organization to emerge from the incident with its reputation intact. All of these “audiences” will want information before the business has a chance to begin communicating.

The challenge is to identify potential audiences, determine their need for information and then identify who within the business is best able to communicate with that audience. The business continuity plan should include action to redirect incoming telephone calls to a second call center (if available) or to a voice message indicating that the business is experiencing a temporary problem.
The plan should include coordination with public safety officials to develop protocols and procedures for advising the public of any hazards and the most appropriate protective action that should be taken if warned. Notification requirements specified in regulations should be documented in the crisis communications plan. The image of the business can be positively or negatively impacted by public perceptions of the handling of the incident.
Lists should be updated regularly, secured to protect confidential information and available to authorized users at the emergency operations center or an alternate location for use by members of the crisis communications team. In turn, management should provide input into the messages generated by the crisis communications team.

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