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4 WAYS TO TEST YOUR

BUSINESS COMMUNICATION
PLANS
By Chris Britton | April 14, 2016 | Crisis Management

Emergency communication planning has become a key element of many


businesses, but a surprising number of organizations are still completely
unprepared for a potential crisis. According to the Business Continuity
Institute, 14 percent of businesses do not have an emergency
communications plan, and 68 percent of those organizations would only
create one if they experienced a business-impacting event.
Of

course, having a plan does not necessarily mean you are prepared for the
next big crisis. When was the last time you truly assessed
your communication plan?
For quick and effective response during an emergency, you should be
testing your business communication plans on a regular basis, as well as
any time there is a significant change in your company. This might include
newly-hired departmental heads or executives, business expansion or the
use of new technology platforms.
Of course, there are several ways to ensure that a crisis communication
plan is up to date and performing as intended. Here, we look at four ways
to test your organizations plans and make sure they are getting the right
message across:

1.

Holding tabletop exercises: One of the best ways to determine if


your plans work is to run through them, in their entirety. In a tabletop
exercise, you guide all stakeholders through a mock emergency and have
them act out, or read through, their roles in the response. This helps to
identify gaps in the plan and to effectively delegate responsibilities. Plus,
regular tabletop exercises re-familiarize your stakeholders with the
communication plan, so it is fresher in their memories. In 2015, an IBM
study showed that organizations with a trained incident response team
saved $12.60 per record in the case of a data breach.

2.

Conducting a S.M.A.R.T. test: Either before or after your tabletop


exercise, you can also conduct a S.M.A.R.T. test to determine whether
your objectives meet the following criteria: specific, measurable,
achievable, realistic and time-focused. Considering all the types of
potential crises that your organization faces, be sure you are establishing
communication plans that are going to actually achieve your goals. As
your business communication plans evolve, revisit the S.M.A.R.T. criteria
regularly as a reference point to ensure that you are still on the right path.

3.

Comparing your plan against best practices: Consider how


other businesses within your industry handle the types of crises that you
might face. Look at how they handledcommunication during these
emergencies, the roles of stakeholders and the length of time it took them
to recover. Think about how you might apply these best practices (and
lessons learned) to your own crisis plans. Never miss the opportunity to
learn from the mistakes and successes of other organizations.

4.

Conducting a full audit: It can also be extremely helpful to


completely audit your crisis plans, especially if they havent been updated
in a while or if there have been significant changes within your
organization. An audit should include the following key points:

Vulnerability assessment: Examine whether new vulnerabilities


have emerged and if threats have evolved.

Technology assessment: Consider whether the systems you are


using to store, disseminate and update your communication plans are
truly effective. If not, look for newer alternatives that get the job done.

Communication assessment: Your plan should have clearlydefined stakeholders and use effective communication channels. When
possible, ensure you have pre-drafted, pre-approved crisis
communications documents to ensure quick response during an
emergency.

Training assessment: Finally, how prepared are your employees


for an emergency situation? Do you train them regularly and keep them
updated as your plans change? If not, now is the time to institute a
regular training initiative.
When was the last time you fully tested your business communication
plans? Do you feel your organization would be prepared if a crisis struck
tomorrow?