Debriefing: The critical crisis communications step you need to take now Businesswoman with clipboard

Debriefing: The critical crisis communications step you need to take now

When the coronavirus crisis hit, companies who were affected either dusted off their crisis communications plans or made things up as they went along.

Some fared well. Others ended up frustrated that they had no plan to follow.

However you’ve gotten through the first stage of the coronavirus crisis, there’s one thing you need to do next: debrief.

Debriefing after each stage in a crisis is a crucial step.

Why? To ensure your plan is in good shape and you’re prepared for the next crisis.

Debriefing will help you handle the next crisis more efficiently. Better yet, sometimes debriefing can help prevent a future crisis.

For example, I once worked at a telecom company where we debriefed after every crisis. During one of our debriefs, we detailed in our plan to ensure we had all of the information before we communicated, not just most of it or any unrecognized assumptions.

That step proved crucial during our next crisis, because we were able to keep a negative story out of the news.

Unfortunately, many companies skip this critical step. I’ve heard every excuse:

“We’re too busy.” “We got through it okay.” And my favorite: “We won’t have another crisis again for a long time.”

Of course, there’s no way to know when the next crisis will come.

Debriefing is worth it. And it doesn’t have to take long. In fact, it takes less time than scrambling when you’re unprepared for a crisis.

Woman on videoconference
Include all of the people from your crisis team in the debriefing session.

Not sure how to debrief quickly and well? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you follow your crisis communications plan? The simplest way to debrief after a crisis is to pull out your crisis communications plan and discuss how well you followed each step. Include all of the people from your crisis team in the debriefing session.
    Don’t have a plan? Debrief using our cheat sheet. While it’s not a substitute for a full crisis plan, discussing how you handled each tip on the cheat sheet helps you prepare for a future crisis.
  • What went well? Highlighting what went well shows you the strengths of how you handled the crisis. And it can help with morale. People often feel drained after a crisis, and pointing out what went can work wonders for people’s moods.
  • What could we have done better? Chances are there will be at least one or two things your company could have done better.
    Were your communications and actions timely? Did you involve the right people in decision-making? Is the right tone set in your communications? Did it take too long to get communications approved?
    Sometimes it’s a good idea to survey employees to get their feedback on how the company handled the crisis.
    Make sure to update your plan during or directly after the debrief so you capture what to do differently next time.
  • Did your communications address audience needs? If not, how could you have improved them?
    Did you get any feedback from your clients or other third parties about how you handled the crisis? If not, survey a sample of your clients.
    Use their feedback to update your crisis plan and crisis communications templates.

Find tips for marketing communications during a crisis in this blog.

Dealing with a crisis can be daunting. Even as you hope the next crisis never comes, debriefing after a crisis is your best way to prepare for future events.

Need help to create, rehearse or test a crisis plan? Contact us for a free consultation.

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