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Building a crisis communication plan for a small business

crisis communication plan for small business

It’s safe to say that most industries were unprepared Covid-19 back in late 2019 and early 2020. And, while a lot of businesses found ways to survive and thrive, there was still a lot of damage done by the pandemic. 

In fact, it’s estimated that the damaging effects could be around $4 trillion. Who knows how much it has been to the fitness industry?

Regardless of the business you’re in; we’re quite confident that you were unprepared in the crisis management department for the devastating Coronavirus crisis. Most likely, you’re still trying to bounce back from the disastrous pandemic. 

If Covid-19 has taught us anything, we all need to have a crisis communication strategy to prepare our business against any future problems. In this article, we will look at what a crisis communications plan is, how it can help your business, and things to consider when drawing up your own plan. 

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What is a crisis communication plan?

A crisis communication plan is basically a plan or a strategy that protects your company, employees, and potential customers as a result of a major crisis situation. It allows you to communicate to your team practical actions to take when an emergency occurs.

These plans are essential to protect your company’s reputation and save you valuable time for your company to bounce back. The messages in the plan are designed specifically to target your employees, their families, external stakeholders, and the local media. 

As a company, you can have one general plan that serves everything or make different crisis communication plans based on a possible crisis, i.e., a pandemic, epidemic, natural disaster, theft, or anything else. 

The plans themselves save valuable time and reduce the number of emergency meetings that can occur. Usually, they’re so well detailed that they provide you with a step-by-step guide on what to do and when to do it. Ultimately having an effective crisis communication plan will protect your assets, brand, and your people. 

How can a crisis communications plan help your business?

Do you know that 69% of leaders have been subject to one or more corporate crises? Many of these leaders have learned the hard way, and since their crisis, they’ve had to implement a completely new plan from scratch. If you have a crisis communication plan in place from today, it can have the following benefits:

Access to resources

In a potential disaster, a crisis communication plan allows you to stay on top of your essential resources. This means when a major event does happen; there’s no panicking or frustration due to a scarcity of resources. Plus, it allows you to get important resources like medical equipment to the right place at any time. Depending on the crisis, it could save someone’s life, money, or valuable time for your company.

Improves communication

How big is your company? Sometimes in the fitness industry, job duties can become blurred, and reporting can be confusing. There may be team members who might not know the proper process to inform those higher above of their actions or any queries. 

Setting up a crisis response plan and sharing it with your team allows you to have a direct channel of communication and enlightens them on who to report to in your company. Overall, having this will strengthen your communication culture within your company.

Improve moral amongst your team

Running a fitness company is not easy; it’s constant work. One of the most challenging topics for any entrepreneur is making sure their team is happy in the workplace. While crisis communication plans don’t fully change the moral, they can contribute to elevating it. 

If you have a solid plan in place and your employees know about it, they will most likely feel that you have their best interests at heart. That you care about their health, safety, and wellbeing, allowing you to be portrayed as a considerate employer.

Reduced downtime during a crisis 

When your perceived crisis does eventually hit, your plan will save you and your team the downtime. A crisis plan will prepare you for spotting a crisis well in advance; after all, most don’t just happen straight away. 

They usually slowly start to bubble over days, weeks, and months before they hit big. Because of this, having an effective plan, you’ll be able to identify as soon as it hits and be able to put the necessary preventive measures in place. 

It reminds you of your priorities 

In a crisis, many people can become so traumatized they start developing a victim blaming mentality. It becomes like you vs. them the situation, and that is definitely not a culture you want your employees to have. 

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Plus in a crisis, you will want all of your team to be on board so your company is saved sooner rather than later. The reason it can remind you and your team of your priorities is that oven crisis communication plans include your mission statement, which allows you to regularly review it to see if you’re consistent with it. 

Things to consider when creating a crisis communication plan 

Crisis communication plans are by no means a one size fits all strategy. Such plans vary according to each company and the potential crisis they might face. While this may be the case, one thing always remains the same: the things to consider before making a plan. 

1. Identify the risks 

To have a proper plan in place, you should identify the risks while creating it. One good way to start is to look at potential disasters like natural disasters that could occur, floods, power outages, medical emergencies, protests, robbery, online attacks, or anything which is highly likely you could face as a company. Once you highlight the significant risks, it will help you proceed further with your plan and review the small ones that could potentially occur.

2. Create a template

While you’re creating your plan, you might want to create a template of details that helps you fill in the details for each part of the plan. For example, you will want the template to include the purpose of the plan, activation criteria, and the initial procedures you wish to undergo when the crisis does take place. 

3. State when the plan should be activated

A crisis plan is essential for your business as it will help you identify when a crisis hits and when to do something about it. It’s important when making a plan you should think about the level of alertness according to the crisis you’re preparing for. Ideally, you will want to create different stages of urgency for each response in the crisis. 

Make sure you include the different levels of urgency according to the crisis level. Adding a lot of detail to your plan will allow you to have easy to follow protocols when the plan event occurs.

4. Declare your crisis communication team

In an emergency, everyone looks up to a leader for hope, safety, and their general wellbeing. When creating your crisis communication plan, you will want to state which members in your organization will be such leaders. 

Ideally, you will want to declare a clear chain of command to report to in what emergency. It’s similar to what those do in the armed forces or any police group. Doing this will allow information to be filtered down easily, and it will help your team stick to the necessary instructions.

5. Training

Once you’ve declared your crisis communication team, you should think about providing training to all the relevant people. Doing this will ensure that your plan gets executed correctly and promptly in the event of an emergency. 

It will also help your team leaders become familiar with their roles and know what’s expected of them during the disaster. In addition to training, you might want to think about hosting group drills that compliment your crisis communication plan, so your employees are ready at any time to tackle the task at hand. First aid training is an example of this, which you regularly hold to help your team.

6. Set clear communication procedures

Even though you’ll have team leaders ready to lead your company back to recovery, you must think about your internal methods of communication. Will your employees receive messages through meetings, voicemails, intranet, or anything else? 

Plus, you should think about how your employees could be contacted in an emergency if there are none of these available. It’s also important that your employees are familiar with your social media channels policy and general media policy, so they don’t relay wrong information to the media.

7. Create a contact and media list

Time is of the essence in a crisis, and you should do everything you can for your preparedness and save it. One great way of getting organized is creating a contact list for your communication plan well in advance of the time of crisis. If you gather phone numbers and emails of important contact information like local government offices, public health departments, evacuation centers, emergency services, and more, time could be in your favor. 

You might want to also have a media list with contact details for the national press, local press, influential bloggers, and more to help your business.

8. Update your website

A major crisis isn’t always offline; it can happen online too! Therefore as a company, you should be prepared both ways. Plus, if you experience an emergency, you’ll be able to quickly put a page to keep the important information in one place with an up to date website. 

Further to this, you may want to create a page that can be pulled up quickly in the event of an emergency. Moreover, an updated website can save you a lot of time from getting phone calls and repeating multiple bits of information.

In summary 

Overall, as a fitness owner or an entrepreneur in general, you need at least a crisis communication plan to cover your business operations. Ideally, you might want to have multiple crisis business plans in your business to prepare you for anything. 

They’re instrumental to your operations as they can save you time by allowing you to have instant access to your resources, better company morale, identify potential threats and save you money. No two crises are ever identical, which is why you should take your time to plan so you can effectively lead in them

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Owner at Carpe Diem BJJ

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