How to Create an Association Crisis Response Plan

image of 3 men parachutingCrisis response planning is something most organizations don’t want to think about. Numerous studies also confirm that only about half of all organizations have any kind of crisis plan in place.  Make sure your association is prepared.

The intent of crisis communications is to strategically restore and preserve an organization’s reputation.  Even though it might not be a “fun” process to write a plan, it is crucial if you want to be ready to mitigate an issue. The goal is to not only limit the amount of harm to the association’s reputation, but also to make sure it does not affect member retention.

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An issue can escalate to crisis level when stakeholders become aware of it and share the information with others.  It may not make the 6:00 news, but word can spread quickly through social media channels.

To begin your communication planning, start here:

  • Build the team. Appoint the crisis communications lead person who is responsible for ensuring all tasks are completed. Assign a spokesperson to answer any media inquiries (most likely the association president).
  • Practice and create a worst-case If one does occur, the meaning of a “crisis” in your organization will be defined ahead of time, along with a determination of how your association will operate during the situation.

When a crisis occurs, jump on it right away.  Don’t point fingers – it’s time to take responsibility and retain the trust of your members.  Follow these steps:

  • Assess the situation and examine the facts as soon as possible.
  • Determine appropriate action or response. Be transparent and make sure both your internal and external messages match (it’s possible that an internal person can appoint themselves as an unofficial spokesperson through social media).
  • Create a plan of action for communications. Proactively reach out to all stakeholders as soon as possible to prepare them.
  • Craft a statement using factual, detailed messages that reflect the status. If possible, communicate the steps being taken to resolve it as well as proactively alleviate fears.
  • Prepare talking points and provide a script for anyone receiving incoming calls.
  • If necessary, distribute a press release. Additionally, update your website and post updates on social media channels. Note: Address the crisis on the channel where it broke first. Be prepared for people to engage with your organization- and be sure to respond quickly.
  • Document crisis details, actions taken, responses, and resolutions.
  • Evaluate message effectiveness in real-time.
  • Post-crisis, communicate with stakeholders so that everyone is aware of the resolution.
  • Always evaluate all crisis communications efforts. Learn from mistakes.

In the end, being transparent and accepting responsibility goes a long way toward minimizing the damage. Plus, it puts you on the path to rebuilding any lost trust.

See current trends and industry feedback
in the 2018 Association Survey Results Report.

SEE ALSO: How to Set Realistic Goals for Associations

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