In business, we need to be prepared for the worst. A product defect may prompt a recall or someone within your company may get caught doing something illegal or unethical. These situations always catch organizations by surprise, but you can make sure you’re prepared for the worst with a sound crisis communications plan.

Why do you need a crisis communications plan? For one, not everything related to your business is within your control. And secondly, you want to make sure you maintain your brand image and respond to inquiries swiftly if bad new does hit.

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In setting up your crisis communications plan, there are two key things you need to determine:

1. Your key audience. In most situations, your primary audience is made up of your current and future customers, but you may have a number of stakeholder groups with which you need to communicate. Nonprofit organizations, for example, may need to reach out to donors. And start-ups will want to make sure they keep their investors informed.

2. Your spokesperson. Your organization should be ready to have one person be the main point of contact for all media inquiries. This person should be comfortable speaking to reporters, perhaps even on camera, and should know your brand’s key messages. Having one identified spokesperson ensures that the communications coming from your company are consistent in the vital few hours after a crisis hits.

3. Your means of communication. If the issue is serious enough, much of your communications will be reactionary. The news media may ask for interviews and reporter will grill you on the issue at hand. But you should also have a plan for proactive communication, reaching out to your key audience members via email, social media or any other effective channels.

Some organizations take things a step further and develop comprehensive crisis communication plans, crafting template press releases, website copy, email pieces, social media updates and more. This may be especially critical for large corporations, but even small businesses can benefit from making the right preparations for a crisis situation.

Keep these concepts in mind as you think about your company’s ability to respond to a crisis. If you have questions or would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out to a copywriting service with experience in this area of public relations and marketing.

Allison Lewis is an associate editor with ProPRcopy LLC, a copywriting firm that helps businesses and organizations develop press releases, website content, blog content, articles and more, including for crisis communications needs.