Report: 72% of communicators had a crisis plan before COVID—but was it enough?

Respondents to a recent Ragan survey shared their evaluation of their crisis response, how they’re preparing for 2021 and what has employees worried.

COVID crisis comms planning for 2021

Most organizations had some form of a crisis communications plan in place before the COVID-19 crisis upended the world economy. However, fewer teams put that plan into practice with regular risk assessment and crisis drills.

And very few had a specific plan for a pandemic.

In a recent Ragan survey—the 2021 Crisis and Healthcare Communications Forecast—respondents reported having done some preparation for a crisis, but less specific planning around specific risks, much less the unanticipated global health crisis that developed in 2020.

And even though organizations might have had a crisis plan in place, what was the sophistication level of that plan? Did the protocols rely on analytics and measurement, the latest listening tools and data, or were they run on instinct and tradition? While the majority (74%) found analytics very or somewhat important, about a quarter either ranked analytics as not very important or that there was no measurement effort at all. Regardless, the majority of communicators (88%) ranked their response highly effective or effective.

So how prepared are you for 2021? Forty percent of respondents said they were working on a crisis comms plan for 2021, 15% aren’t, 9% are waiting to see what happens and 8% “don’t know.” When asked about their crisis comes budget, 13% predicted an increase, 7% a decrease and the majority (54%) no change.

The issues of most concern to employees going forward are job stability (40%), COVID-19 (27%), economic security and stress and burnout (19%) after months of crisis and working from home. Career growth was ranked as the least pressing of the crises facing employees—though communicators should watch those figures carefully as a vaccine rollout continues in the U.S. and worldwide.

We’d like to thank our survey partners Zignal, Signal AI, APCO, ContactMonkey, MVP/SparkInSight, Aware, Staffbase, Malone Media, Ragan Consulting Group and the Crisis Leadership Network.

If you want to learn more of the insights and lessons shared from our recent Crisis Communications Virtual Conference or Health Care Communications Virtual Conference, you can find those sessions on Ragan Training, our comprehensive library of training videos and conference sessions on demand.

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