Emergency Communications Planning: Reducing Moments of Panic

Emergency Communications Planning: Reducing Moments of Panic

While many issues tend arise when we are least prepared to deal with them, organizations with clear crisis communications plans are in positions better suited for success. In moments of panic, business leaders can often make decisions on a whim, which may reflect poorly on their organization. Creating a crisis communication plan ensures that your entire organization is prepared to deal with communicating with your clients, customers and colleagues when a critical issue arises. Communicating the plan to your entire team and confirming it is well-understood among employees is equally important as the plan itself.

If you’re company is in the not-so-unique position of being without a crisis communication plan, don’t stress. Getting started is as simple as following these six steps.

1. Create a List of Emergency Scenarios

A great place to being is by creating a list of crisis scenarios that would require communications should they occur. Try to think about each and every aspect of your business and how each crisis scenario would impact the day-to-day operations of your customers, clients and employees. For example, is your website down? Is your payment system malfunctioning? Has your office lost electricity? All of these things have an impact on your customers and clients, and you should be prepared to keep them informed to avoid chaos.

2. Determine How You Will Communicate

Every organization has a unique audience. Think about how you would best reach that audience when something goes wrong. Some scenarios may require an email while others may only require a simple message on the home page of your website. Other scenarios may require all of the above. For example, if you are a retail establishment or restaurant facing a loss of power at your location, consider social media as being a possible tool to spread word to current and potential customers. Alternatively, if your organization focuses on web development and has suffered a bug that needs fixing, perhaps a website disclaimer or digital newsletter push would be most effective for reaching your client base. However you tend to communicate with your audience on the best of days is likely going to be the same method to communicate with your audience in a time of crisis. In some instances, you may choose to communicate on more than one channel.

3. Write Copy for Each Scenario and Communications Channel

Now that you have identified all issues, both minor and major, you need to determine what the message says. Depending on which communications channels you use, you may choose to alter your message slightly between channels. Work to produce copy that is clear, concise and appropriate for the chosen communication channel(s), and be sure to avoid further inconveniencing or confusing the audience.  Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think through all of the questions they might have and try to address those questions in your messaging.

4. Review the Copy With Your Entire Team

Once you have prepared copy for each scenario, give your team with ample time to review and provide feedback. Members of your team may have a unique perspective to share and may be able to point out additional details that should be included in the messaging. Taking time for this step will ensure that all the important details are covered and that all team members understand the messaging being provided to customers. Making sure the entire team is providing the same consistent message throughout the duration of the “crisis” is vital to successfully getting through it.

5. Create a Templated Guide With Each Scenario and the Associated Messaging

If you plan to use your bulk email service to send out crisis notices, take the time to prepare a draft for each scenario in your system. With the drafts already created, it is simple for a team member to push send on a predetermined email your audience. For other communications channels, such as social media, prepare a simple document that outlines the message for each scenario so that each message can simply be copied, pasted and posted. Your team will be grateful for anything that makes it easier to distribute out a timely message in a time of need.

6. Create a Matrix for Each Scenario

If your company has a lot of scenarios, types of customers and varied communications methods, it may be helpful to create a matrix to outline each scenario and determine who will receive the message, which communications channels will be used to communicate, and how soon and how often communications should occur. This is yet another way to keep your team on the same page and avoid panic when a crisis arises. A matrix can serve as a map so that no decisions are made in a panic.

Creating a crisis communications plan takes collaboration and critical thinking skills. Depending on the complexity of your business, the process to create a plan can be time-consuming and requires careful attention to detail to ensure each component is clear, concise and easily implemented, making dealing with the crisis less cumbersome. The marketing team at Enterprise Iowa has the ability to create a detailed and efficient crisis communication plan to encompass all aspects of your business, ensuring your company is thoroughly prepared to communicate like a pro even in times of crises. Contact us to set up an appointment to discuss devising a unique crisis communication plan for your business.

Marketing and Communications Budgeting: Setting Up Your Organization for Success

Marketing and Communications Budgeting: Setting Up Your Organization for Success

Business leaders work hard to strike the balance between all of the day-to-day functions necessary to keep things running smoothly. From customer service to financials, marketing and communications functions can often get lost in the shuffle. Amidst the chaos of everyday business practices, it is important to have a marketing professional on your team who can help you look beyond today and plan for tomorrow, next month and next year.

It’s no secret that when push comes to shove and budgets get tight, marketing dollars are often reallocated to other areas. Setting aside time to create an annual marketing plan and budget can set you up for success long-term and ensure communications strategies are executed within a desired timeline and within the predefined cost parameters. In fact, planning ahead and creating a detailed marketing budget is a vital process in setting up your organization for success – and your team will surely thank you for taking the time to analyze all available opportunities.

Follow these tips to ensure that your annual marketing budget will set up your organization for success.

1. Do Your Research

To avoid falling into the habit of simply re-implementing your previous budget, take time to do some research. Look through all your passed expenses and analyze them. For example, if your organization participates in conferences and trade shows, take time to review the smaller details, such as the dates of those conferences, the costs to exhibit and the benefits of participating. If you are considering advertising opportunities, review the costs of each option and compare that with the potential return on your investment. The costs and benefits of various opportunities change from year to year, so it is vital to do your research each year to ensure you are still making the best, most informed decisions for your business.

Bonus tip:  Be flexible. It is okay to swap out an opportunity mid-year if new information has been presented. Don’t set your budget in stone, missing valuable opportunities because you’re afraid to be flexible and make small (or big) changes.

2. Understand Your Budget Parameters

After you have thoroughly researched all the available marketing opportunities for your business, work with your management team to determine what type of budget you have available. Having these numbers upfront will help you mold and prioritize your budget to meet the needs and constraints of your company.

3. Make Decisions Based on Annual Goals & Objectives

As you mold and prioritize your budget, it is important to reflect on the strategic goals and objectives of your organization for the year. Having these goals in mind will help you determine where marketing dollars are best spent to help your company reach them. For instance, just because you have always participated in a certain trade show or have always advertised in a specific publication does not mean that those marketing activities make the most sense for your current goals and objectives. Reevaluation is key for amplifying your return on investment.

4. Think Ahead

Thinking beyond the current state of your business and planning ahead for change can be a massive benefit to your company. For example, maybe you have an exhibit display that is old and outdated. And maybe you’re also scheduled to go through a re-branding process during the budget year. Well, consider making additional dollars available for updating the display after re-branding efforts have concluded.

Alternatively, perhaps you work on a different budget cycle than the organizations you partner with. Planning for potential rate increases can ensure you will still be able to participate in marketing and communications activities with those organizations during your next budget cycle. You should always leave a bit of cushion in your budget to compensate for this potential scenario.

5. Make Sure Your Entire Team Agrees

Once you have worked through all of these details and have made tough decisions about where your marketing dollars should be spent for the year, take time to sit down with your team. Discussing the budget terms with your team will ensure that you are all on the same page regarding how dollars should be spent. It also provides time for you to pitch your plan and provide details pertaining to your research and how you determined the final budget plan. Lastly, it allows your teammates the opportunity to share their perspectives and to help identify any possible holes in the budget. Making sure everyone is on the same page from the start of the budget cycle will ensure that there are no issues as you start your new budget year.

6. Get an Expert Opinion

If you follow these steps, you can have confidence that you’ve created a strategic budget to suit all of the needs for your organization. However, finding the time to sit down and do it all is a whole different story; many business leaders find they simply don’t have the time to spare, therefore they stick to the status-quo. This is where hiring an outside agency can be extremely beneficial.

At Enterprise Iowa, going beyond the creative realm of marketing is our specialty. We are truly strategic thinkers with the ability to analyze all angles and objectives of your organization to provide a clear strategy for reaching them. Our team can look through each item in your current budget, research and identify new opportunities, and put together a plan to take your business to the next level. Contact us to learn more about creating and implementing a budget for your company or project.