Ten Steps to Crisis Communication Planning in the Financial Industry

Many organizations put crisis communication planning on the backburner thinking that they can simply address issues as they occur. Unfortunately, bank and mortgage crises arise without warning and can often have long-lasting effects on your company’s reputation. There are ten steps to help your financial organization properly plan for a crisis. Crisis communication planning can save your company the headache resulting from dealing with a crisis as it unfolds.

1. Identify potential crises

Take the time to identify any possible crises your organization could face, no matter how large or small, possible or impossible they may seem. Including:

  • Natural Disasters
  • Data Breaches
  • Negative Social Media Comments

Then, gather as much information as possible on each potential disaster, such as all those it could impact. As many quickly discover, when it comes to crisis communication, you can never be too prepared.

2. Establish a crisis communication team

Designate individuals within your company who will be involved in the crisis communication process. Consider including your CEO, head of public relations, vice presidents and legal counsel. Training a team on how to handle these situations will help keep everyone calm and collected if a real crisis does occur.

3. Determine the appropriate positioning/messaging to address each scenario

Now that you have a team in place and knowledge of all possible crisis scenarios, it’s time to determine the best route for your company to take. This may include a public apology, an offer to help those affected or simply a transparent explanation.

4. Designate spokespersons

Designate one person, or in certain cases several people, to handle all communication to the company’s employees, customers, shareholders and the financial media. Having multiple trained spokespersons allows for different people to handle different crises depending on their own expertise and comfort level with the situation.

5. Develop frequently asked questions

Developing a list of FAQs that provides complete and truthful answers serves both internal and external purposes. Internally, it can be used as training material for spokespersons to guarantee they are sharing accurate and uniform information with the public. This document can also be distributed to the financial media to help quickly answer common questions.

6. Develop communications to employees and customers

Reach out to employees and customers quickly, using as many communication channels as possible, to put your company ahead of the crisis and resulting rumors that may spread. It’s important that communication is personable and reassuring while addressing specific fears employees and customers are likely to have.  A personal letter from your CEO is best. However, it is just as important to supplement this with up-to-date information listed on the company website and social media accounts.

7.  Determine the media communication method

While your communication during a crisis can either be proactive or reactive, it’s important to strive for communication that is proactive. Staying on top of communication with the financial media is crucial during this time as they can aid you in sharing accurate information with the public. Press releases, written media responses and press conferences are effective ways of getting timely information to the media.

8. Facilitate a media training refresher

Participating in a refresher course helps a spokesperson feel more comfortable fielding media inquiries during a crisis. It also gives them the opportunity to review how to respond to the media when they don’t know the answer to the question. In most cases, a simple “I don’t know the answer to that, but I will find out and follow up with you immediately” will suffice. Keep in mind that you must actually follow up in a timely manner.

9. Track media coverage

To keep your company’s crisis communication plan running smoothly, it’s important that the crisis communication team continuously track media coverage and social media sentiment. Regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, the media’s perspective can provide insight into how the company is being viewed. Subsequently, this helps your team determine if they need to clarify, expand upon or redirect information.

10. Evaluate your crisis communication plan

After the crisis, allow for time to evaluate your current crisis communication plan. By documenting your plan and including any necessary changes you will be able to better plan for the future.

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