Hot Topic from the Principles and Practices Guide: Crisis Communication Plans

If you ever thought these Twitter and Facebook things were passing fads or merely ways to pass time, you’d only need to look at posts to both in recent weeks about Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision regarding grants to some Planned Parenthood organizations to recognize the enormous influence of social media.  Regardless of one’s feelings on the funding issue, there are certainly some lessons for nonprofits; ranging from how organizational decisions are made and policies applied, the impact decisions made at the national level can have on local affiliates, the power of social media and perhaps the most important of all, the critical need for a crisis communications plan.  The Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Kentucky tools note that a communications plan and, more specifically, a crisis communications plan is a best practice.  Recent events with Komen and Planned Parenthood as well as some recent challenges facing charities in the Bluegrass region would indicate plans like this are not a best practice luxury, but a requirement.  The last thing your organization wants to do in a time of crisis is risk your good name, reputation and hard work by making a potentially damaging public relations move .  Or even worse, making no move at all – being paralyzed and allowing others to dictate and frame the discussion.

This was on our long to do list at KNN, but it just got a good bump to the top!  How about your organization?  Have you developed a communications and/or crisis communications plan?  What challenges have you experienced in creating the plan?  Have you ever had to implement the crisis component?  Please comment below!

Learn More:

The Accidental Rebranding of Komen for the Cure

3 Nonprofit PR Lessons from the Susan G. Komen Debacle

Susan G. Komen’s Problem Wasn’t Communication

The Komen Backlash – Why You Need an Emergency Communications Plan

KNN Resources – Communications

Crisis Communications Plan – Nonprofit Toolkit

Nonprofit Risk Management Center Fact Sheet on Crisis Management


Filed under Communications

5 responses to “Hot Topic from the Principles and Practices Guide: Crisis Communication Plans

  1. One of the biggest mistakes nonprofits can make is thinking they don’t need a crisis communication plan. As recent events have shown, bad things do happen to good organizations. Having a plan and prepared responses to various potentially negative scenarios will be extremely helpful if things go wrong. Additionally, building good relationships with the media during good times can be helpful if a crisis strikes.

  2. This is a crucial component for any NPO to be better prepared for the unexpected. in 2009, Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass created both a “Business Continuity Plan” (which includes a section on crisis communication) as well as a “Crisis Manual” for each of our core programs (addressing more specific details of duties to perform in the event of an emergency.) One important step we have to remind ourselves of is to mark our calendars to UPDATE them annually (or even twice a year) so the information remains current. As we continue to place an emphasis on being “risk aware” in our organization, we continue to find new scenarios to include in our plan, too. We not only have to account for natural disasters, but specific situations that are applicable to the services we provide. It’s always a great exercise for our staff to participate in as we try to “top” each other’s sample crisis scenario.

    • Danielle Clore

      Thanks, Sarah! Does your plan identify who is the organization’s spokesperson (executive director, board president, etc.) and in what circumstances the spokesperson might change?

  3. Jenny Compton

    A Crisis Communication Plan is crucial to every organization. This plan should be shared with staff and Board members so they know what role they play if ever the time comes to implement the plan. Often times NPO find themselves answering questions about national stories that might not have a direct impact on their work but they are looked at as an expert in the field. Organizations should be prepared and proactive in their approach. Having a plan in place assures that the message will be delivered in a manner that speaks for the organization as a whole.

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