Even the best of plans can get waylaid, which is why it’s a smart move to have a plan B. Or a contingency plan, as it’s officially known.
Most responsible managers make sure they have something in place before project kick-off. But how many have a plan B specifically for content? Answer: not many.
When there’s a crisis, content is usually one of the last things people think about. After all, who has time to write blog posts or Tweet when a delivery is late, your website is down, or you’ve just suffered a massive cyberattack?
This is where a content contingency plan comes in handy.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what one is, why you need it – and how to get started on your own. Read on!
What is a business crisis, and why are they bad news?
A crisis is an event – or a series of events – that causes major disruption to the running of a business. It usually happens without warning, meaning everyone needs to act fast to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.
Here are some possible causes of a business crisis:
- Tech disasters: cyber attacks, system failures, and faulty hardware all affect a business’ ability to operate as normal. In some cases, the result can be catastrophic: for example, a malicious cyber attack could mean customers’ details are stolen and result in a costly lawsuit. Or hackers shut down your site and not even your website developer can get things back up and running.
- Natural disasters: heavy flooding, wind, or snow can all bring businesses to a halt and damage property.
- Accidental disasters: things like power cuts, fires, or unintentional damage can disrupt telecoms systems, machinery, or close an office.
- Theft of vandalism: damage to equipment and IT systems can halt business-critical operations and/or pose a health and safety risk. IT issues can also leave systems vulnerable to attacks.
- Loss of staff: illness and staff leaving unexpectedly could all cause problems.
- Pandemic: as we’ve recently seen, pandemics can cause havoc, with governments imposing restrictions on businesses and trade.
- Supplier issues: not being able to get certain items might mean production has to halt.
- Reputation crisis: a product recall or PR disaster can seriously damage a business’ relationship with customer, clients, and suppliers.
A PR disaster can be big, but even something as minor as a bad review online can cause big problems (Image via Reputation Management).
How a business crisis can affect content (and why it matters)
When a crisis strikes, content is usually one of the first things that suffers. No-one has time to tweet or write blog posts when the proverbial hits the fan – but does it really matter? Short answer: yes.
When your content stops, it means the conversation that’s been going on between you and your customers stalls too.
If your business relies heavily on content marketing as a way of finding leads, then that means a large chunk of your income grinds to a halt and website conversions slow down – which is bad for your bottom line.
A sudden ceasing of content (especially if people are used to seeing you being active on social media and on your blog) also looks as though your business is in trouble – something that could see customers or investors opting for your competitors due to a lack of confidence. Having a content contingency plan means that when things go wrong, your online reputation doesn’t suffer.
What is a content contingency plan?
A content contingency plan is a plan you put in place that means that if a disaster strikes, your content will keep ticking over. Not only that: it means you have a suitable response prepared in the event of a crisis. After all, when tension is high, it’s difficult to think straight – having pre-prepared options takes the strain off you so you can focus on tackling the bigger problem.
How to create a content contingency plan
An effective content contingency plan starts with research and brainstorming. Here’s how:
- List your key risks
Note down any and all events that could have an impact on your business’ ability to operate effectively. This includes things that might have an effect on IT systems, employees, the premises, your customers, resources, and so on.
For this stage, involve the heads of other departments, or even outsiders for a more impartial view. The goal here is to get the fullest picture possible when it comes to things that could change the course of your business’ direction.
Top tip: risks can be positive as well as negative. For example, getting sudden influx of orders is a good thing, but it could mean you run out of resources and are unable to fulfil future orders – which is a bad thing. A good thing can turn into a crisis – so make sure your contingency plan covers all eventualities.
Step 2: Prioritize your risks based on their impact on content
Once you have all your risks written down, rate them on a scale of 1-5 based on both how much of an effect they’ll have on your ability to produce content, as well as the probability of them occurring.
For example, you might rate a staff member leaving as a 2 – low-average impact to content production, meaning it might slow down, but it probably won’t stop entirely. Whereas you might rate a PR crisis or a fire as a 5 – severe threat to content production.
Set your items and their risks out in a chart, with a column for each (risk of occurrence/impact on production). Once you have the two sets of numbers, add them up and order them according to highest risk/probability. The items near the top will be the things you prioritize (as shown in the example below).
|Risk||Severity of impact||Probability of occurrence||Total|
|Content team member leaving||2||3||5|
Step 3: create a contingency plan for each event
Think about what needs to be done to keep content moving in the event of each crisis occurring. You’ll need to think about what should happen both during and after the event.
Set out key tasks for each event, then add a timeline, noting down what needs to be done and when. It’s also a good idea to note down responsibilities and communications processes at this stage so people know exactly what to do when things are stressful. The more guidance you can provide, the better.
Here are some examples of things you might note down on your plan:
- Creating a spreadsheet containing pre-written messages to be used in specific events
- Creating a document with step-by-step instructions on who to contact in the event of a PR disaster, like a mistake on Twitter or a data breach
- Having a bank of generic blog posts and newsletters you can automatically generate
- Always making sure you have a month’s worth of social media posts scheduled so that if you’re unable to post (due to, say, a member of staff taking time off sick), things will keep ticking over
- Having a list of potential blog post titles written down to ensure you’re never out of ideas during times of stress
Step 4: Share and maintain your content contingency plan
Your plan will only be effective if people know about it. So put it somewhere that’s easily accessible – e.g. on your team’s project management software, or in a shared drive.
Before you store it away, make sure it’s understood and give everyone a chance to ask questions. Then, review it from time to time and update it as needed (being sure to tell everyone else if changes are made).
A good content crisis management strategy begins with planning. With all the right steps in place, the response and post-crisis stages should run smoothly (Image source).
How Scoop.it can help
With Scoop.it, you can schedule content easily across all of your social media channels – which means that in the event of a crisis, you can let the software do the heavy lifting while you focus on getting things back on track.
You can also use it to create quick newsletters, share, and curate high quality content and publish to your website in minutes – meaning if you don’t have time to write blog posts, you can find and publish content to keep people coming to your site.
Even the best planned projects go belly-up, and crisis can happen to the best of us. You’ll never be able to predict the future, but with careful planning, you can get pretty darn close.