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What is a University Crisis Communication Plan?
By definition, crisis communication talks about the circulation of information by an organization for the purpose of addressing a crisis that can have effects on the people it caters to or the reputation of the said organization. A university crisis communication plan refers to a document that manages a university’s affairs whenever certain situations occur that pose a threat to its operations, the safety of the community within (ex. the students, the faculty, and the non-teaching staff), and the reputation of the university. Moreover, a university crisis communication plan will mainly focus on the communications aspect during a crisis.
What Are The Fundamentals of a Crisis Communication Plan?
Although a crisis communication plan is composed of multiple elements, it is important that it should be written as simply as possible. This is because even during the times of a crisis, the people that are concerned will still need an easily comprehensible document. With that being said, here are some of the elements that make up a crisis communication plan:
What Are The Steps of Crisis Management?
When a simple incident is mishandled, it can turn into a full-blown crisis in only a matter of minutes. Crisis management should not be limited to reactionary procedures, and must also include preventive measures and anticipating measures in case it happens again. When a crisis does happen, here are the steps you can take in order to manage it:
How to Create A University Crisis Communications Plan
Whenever an emergency occurs inside a university, proper and immediate communication is key. Students, the faculty, and their respective families will want to immediately know what is happening around them. These audiences will immediately want information even before the university departments have a proper chance of communicating with them.
An important component of the crisis response of a university is creating an effective communications plan. This enables them to respond accurately and confidently in the hours that follow during a crisis. With that being said, here are the steps on how to write a proper communications plan:
1. Identify the goal of the communications plan and identify the possible crisis events.
In the first step, the crisis communications team of a university should determine the objective of the communications plan before even creating it. Having a proper goal in creating the crisis communications plan will ensure that each and every aspect of your plan has a goal to align it with.
By identifying potential crisis events that can happen in the university, you can begin to think about all the possible responses as well as any best or worst-case scenarios that can possibly happen.
2. Identify the audience.
When developing the university crisis communications plan, it is essential to keep in mind who the plan is designed for. In the case of this plan, the audience list consists of the faculty, non-teaching staff, students, any investors in the school, the emergency services, the media outlets, and the general public. All the necessary contact information of the identified audiences should also be included in the crisis communications plan.
3. Create a tiered system for information dissemination.
It does not always happen that the person who is reporting the crisis first is also the one who handles the communications process. For this reason, a tiered or hierarchy system should be created to clearly outline how the information should be shared within the university. When a tier system is created, the one who notices the crisis first will know who to report to. The plan should also consist of what information to report to the particular person according to his/her place in the hierarchy.
4. Create fact sheets.
Fact sheets refer to the lists of known facts concerning the crisis. This document helps prevent any rumors or any form of misinterpretations from reaching the media outlets. In preparing a university crisis communications plan, it is important that you assign people who will handle this kind of task. Furthermore, a deadline for creating fact sheets about the crisis should also be set, with the duration depending on the severity of the crisis that is unfolding in the university.
5. Know the risks of the plan.
Any kind of crisis communications plan will always have its pros and cons, no matter how effective and well-prepared it may be. An example of a risk to consider is the costs that come with managing the crisis in the university. Knowing and understanding the risks of the communications plan is important so that when something does go wrong or when something backfires, the possibility of getting surprised or getting caught off-guard is much less.
6. Establish ways to communicate.
There are two types of communication that are essential during any form of crisis, which are proactive and reactive communication. Proactive communication refers to the crisis management team of the university preparing various pieces of information that are to be shared with the general public. Reactive communication is when the members of the crisis management team are actively focused on social monitoring during the time of the crisis. Any form of negative mentions should be dealt with accordingly.
What is a crisis?
A crisis is defined as an event that suddenly and unexpectedly occurs in a particular environment. It demands a quick and effective response and can lead to negative repercussions against the institution or the company when handled inappropriately. Crises can be natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes. They can also be external events such as medical emergencies, fires, and workplace accidents. Sometimes, they can also be a series of equipment recalls, frauds, an active shooter inside a school, gang violence, or someone taking his/her own life. In modern times, reputation management is now considered to be a part of handling a crisis.
What is the role of social media during a crisis?
With the rapid improvement of technology around us, social media has emerged to become a necessary tool when handling a crisis. Social media now serves as a critical channel to deliver news and emergency notifications in real-time. Social media now creates a change in the way that we learn about a crisis happening because it often breaks there first and is commented and engaged upon by active users which in turn expands the shares and distributes the content giving it further reach. Also nowadays, more people expect to get their news on social media first rather than print media.
Why is it necessary to have a university crisis communications plan?
A crisis communication plan is necessary because it serves as a blueprint for the crisis team to follow when preventing harm and loss during a crisis. Because miscommunication can harm a university’s image or cause employees to lose trust in the institution, a good crisis communication plan can alleviate those concerns. It would be beneficial, particularly with regard to media and public inquiries, in order to control the discontent and outrage that may arise from within the university and from the general public.
Whenever a crisis hits a university, one of the most important things to do is to keep the necessary people informed. By planning who should receive what information, establishing proper communications channels, collaborating with the right personnel, and spreading the right kind of message, the foundation of an effective university crisis communications plan is built. As a final step, you should take any data that you have learned from the event and use it to update the communications plan accordingly. An outdated crisis communications plan may bring more harm than good during a crisis. In this article, examples of effective university crisis communications plans are posted for you to use as a handy guide when making one.