crisis [krahy-sis] noun: a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events is determined.
Often used in conjunction with a negative event, by definition, the term crisis doesn’t typically refer to an actual occurrence. It is a condition, a stage in a sequence of events when a decisive response or change is necessary.
During a crisis situation, timely communication and reacting in the present are essential for associations. Determining the how or why of an occurrence typically isn’t the top priority. There’s time for that later. Forward-thinking is critical for making important decisions that will influence the course of events.
Ideally, prebuilding a crisis resource page and having it ready to customize is the best way to prepare the best possible response to an association crisis situation (sometimes referred to as a “dark site”).
The next best thing is to quickly craft a crisis resources web page for your members. Most website content management systems (CMS) allow you to quickly build new page or update an existing page flexible design options. Whether planning for or in the midst of a crisis response, building or maintaining a resources page should not require the involvement of multiple departments or outside vendors.
WHEN BUILDING A CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS WEB PAGE:
Focus on the User Experience
- Use a clean and simple design focused on essential facts.
- Make it easy for readers to find information.
- Use short sentences and paragraphs that speak directly to the reader.
- Group information by topic and consider using headings and subheadings.
- Be sure that it doesn’t come across a self-promoting.
Set the tone:
Whether targeting association members or your association’s industry stakeholders and regardless of the amount of or type of content, the tone should be helpful, sincere, and compassionate.
- A brief description of the situation, cause (if available), likely impact, and what is being done to handle the matter.
- Basic Instructions for everyone affected by the situation, clearly articulating what they should or should not do.
- If the situation warrants it, consider using a disclaimer.
The web page can be as simple or complex as necessary. In determining appropriate elements, consider addressing various points of information such as:
- Who’s impacted?
- Who’s in charge?
- Is the situation under control?
- What are you doing for the people who are hurt?
- What can we expect? / What else can go wrong?
- Why did this happen? / Why wasn’t this prevented?
- When did you begin working on this (were notified of this, found out about this)?
- Are there bad things you aren’t telling us?
SECTIONS TO INCLUDE:
Reserve an area within the site for regular updates. An RSS feed (e.g., blog updates) or a micro-blogging channel (e.g., your association’s Facebook feed) keeps people updated on a regular basis as well as allows them to track responsiveness over time.
- Key, relevant local, state, federal government offices
- Local, regional, state, national resources
- Local, regional, national information
- Non-profits applicable to the situation
- Relevant third-party links
- Links to press releases
- Media Statements (video or text)
- A myth vs. fact section is a valuable resource to debunk rumors and misperceptions
- Facts and statistics
The FAQ page should be easy to navigate and scan and finding the answer to a single question should be painless.
- A popular format is to provide the full question list first, then follow with individual questions and their answers.
- Include links to related content
- Revise and update regularly. Listing the date when the information was updated helps readers determine its timeliness.
- The crisis situation will end, but people will continue to search for information once the crisis situation ends. Either commit to a long-term update strategy or unpublish the page. No information is better than inaccurate information.
Depending on the situation, various elements and links serve a valuable role:
- Links to your social media channels
- Newsletter or RSS Subscription Option
- Button to Contact Association
- Sharable Social Images
- Downloadable forms
- Link to the Member Directory
- Button to Join
- Button to Share Updates
- Jobs Board
- Ask for Sponsors
- Contact information for a point person (to streamline requests and ensure consistency)
Whatever information you decide to include, the most important aspects are that it be: