Crisis Communications for NGOs

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A presentation on Crisis Communications for NGOs

A presentation on Crisis Communications for NGOs

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  • 1. Crisis Communications Sanjana Hattotuwa Senior Researcher, Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • 2. Preparing for the impossible
    • Develop communications strategies
    • Develop scenario planning with worst case scenarios
    • Have designated personnel to handle crisis communications
    • Build media awareness at all levels and operational frameworks of the organisation
  • 3. Why crisis communications matters
    • Current operational context in Sri Lanka
    • NGO hostile media, government
    • Panic exacerbates the problem, as does a lack of planning
    • Lives may be at risk
    • Fallout can affect entire sector
  • 4. Common Sense Guidelines
    • Anticipate
    • Acknowledge
    • Articulate & Communicate
    • Do the right thing, and be seen to be doing it
    • Be aggressive & open
    • No “no comment” (gives the impression that you have something to hide)
  • 5. Common Sense Guidelines
    • Monitor media - esp. what’s important in your work (how it is reported, by whom, how often, qualitative as well as quantitative, ask around, read online as well as mainstream)
    • Engage with journalists - but not with a view to buy them. Careful, honest discussion.
    • Remember - off the record usually doesn’t work in SL!
    • Media reports - CPA (PCI), FMM media reports, market research
  • 6. Common Sense Guidelines
    • Try to understand, then respond.
    • No knee jerk reactions, no set pieces, no stock comments
    • Train personnel - the media WILL get answers, make sure they are YOURS
    • Brief partners and stakeholders, keep them in the loop as much as you can
  • 7. Media: Friend or Foe?
    • Neither - they are impartial, and have to be
    • In reality, they are not impartial
    • Media is intensely oppositional
    • Media shapes public opinion - “terrorists”, “pariah”, “LTTE sympathiser”, “NGO crow”, “Dollar crow”, “unpatriotic”, “traitor”
    • Regular interaction with media as opposed to response driven interactions - put situation reports, updates on work, personal reflections, positive human interest stories
    • Engage! (and keep a record of all interactions…)
  • 8. First 24 hours
    • Create an operations centre - hotline, key personnel, equipment, access, lines of communication, trust and independence
    • Understand the issue, recognise the positions - address the issue
    • Gear up partners to respond, and encourage them to issue statements and activate their own PR, media strategies
    • Keep in mind the vernacular media - translation vital, and needs to be accurate
  • 9. First 24 hours
    • Communicate:
      • Core values (vision, mission)
      • History
      • Reputation (partnerships, collaboratives)
      • The reasons behind the action (why it is important)
      • Safeguards taken and due diligence measures
      • Key message
      • Admit any wrongdoing AND what measures will be taken for redress, within what time frame, and led by whom
      • Contact details (tel / mobile / fax / email / webpage)
  • 10. Do you respond at all?
    • Will it blow over?
    • Crisis vs. bad / negative publicity
    • Respond accordingly - response based on media monitoring, consulting partners, and media / communications team within the organisation
  • 11. More resources
    • Voices of Reconciliation programme:
      • Crisis Communications resources:
      • Access to a Voice: Communications Planning for Civil Society and Community-Based Organisations , a comprehensive handbook on communications strategies for NGOs, CBOs and CSOs, can be found here -
      • New media - Groundviews - (blogs) and VOR Radio - (podcasts)
  • 12. Thank you