Crisis Communications 101: A Crash Course

Director of New Media Strategies
Jan. 27, 2014

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Crisis Communications 101: A Crash Course

  1. Crisis Communications 101
  2. Effective communication during a crisis can make the different between quickly resolving the situation and it becoming a nightmare.
  3. These 12 major principles will help you take charge of the next crisis.
  4. 1. Designate a single point of contact for the press, but have a backup.
  5. Set up both an email address and a phone number, both of which should be manned just about 24/7.
  6. Be sure to have at least one backup point of contact.
  7. 2. The CEO/President isn't usually the right person to be the spokesperson.
  8. Reserve them for press contact when a critical message needs to be conveyed, a more authoritative presence is needed, or there is controversy.
  9. The most serious of situations still call for the CEO to speak from the start.
  10. 3. Appoint a crisis leader with a backup.
  11. Your crisis leader needs to be versatile.
  12. The crisis leader needs to be appointed ahead of time, not in the heat of the crisis.
  13. 4. Have a crisis communication plan.
  14. Cover all the bases, including media, social media, employees and stakeholders.
  15. Jonathan Bernstein’s “Five Tenets of Crisis Communications”: prompt, compassionate, honest, informative and interactive.
  16. 5. Practice your crisis communication plan.
  17. Go over each person’s crisis role and work through various crisis simulations.
  18. Using an online virtual command center (incident management software), you can create pre-defined scenarios that can be used during practice runs.
  19. 6. Have tools in place to monitor the news media and social media.
  20. TweetDeck and HootSuite are great tools—free and paid versions.
  21. Enterprise tools include Radian6 and Sysomos.
  22. 7. Have a central place where employees can go for the latest information.
  23. This could be on your intranet or a hotline.
  24. A confused and possibly frightened workforce isn’t capable of putting in the effort needed to rise above crisis.
  25. 8. Be forthcoming. Don’t lie or spin the truth.
  26. If there is blame, admit it and share what you will do to fix the problem and how you will make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  27. Follow through and actually take the actions you promised.
  28. 9. Have emergency boilerplate language for the early moments of the crisis.
  29. Today’s public calls for near-immediate reporting on just about anything.
  30. Prepare holding statements for the media, such as: “We are investing all available resources in uncovering what happened and will share more information with you as it becomes available.”
  31. 10. Have countermeasures ready if you need to respond to wide-spread rumors.
  32. It’s very likely that damaging rumors will start on social media.
  33. Start before a crisis ever hits by getting involved in social media and building an audience.
  34. Ask followers to help spread the truth and refer people to your organization’s webpage.
  35. 11. Social media needs its own crisis communication plan.
  36. You can’t apply the same rules to social media crisis communications as you can traditional media outlets and expect it to work.
  37. Don’t forget to include in your crisis simulations hurdles like enraged fans or pages flooded with comments.
  38. 12. Prepare for the unexpected.
  39. Craft specific plans for foreseeable types of crises, as well as generic plans for broad categories of unpredictable crises.
  40. Good emergency notification and incident management software allows you to create predefined templates for any type of scenario.
  41. When an event occurs, select a template and your teams have the people, plans and tasks for that type of event from the start.
  42. You can also use the software to test your plans under realworld conditions.
  43. Situation Center Notification Center Streamlined, easy-to-use incident management software. Smarter emergency notification software that’s built for missioncritical enterprise use.  Messaging center  Event log  Task management  Emergency notification  Documents library  Forms, and much more EarShot Beyond notification. Rich, interactive mobile messaging that includes forms, photos and GPS location services.
  44. Crisis Communications 101
  45. Crisis Communications 101