The Art of Crisis Comms Strategy

In today’s fast-paced and unpredictable world, a solid crisis communication strategy is more essential than ever. Whether it’s a natural disaster, a public scandal, or a social media uproar, organizations must be prepared to address crises swiftly and effectively. The art of crisis communication lies in the ability to navigate through turbulent times with grace, transparency, and empathy. It requires not only a thorough understanding of the potential risks and challenges but also a proactive approach to communication. By anticipating potential crises, developing a clear and coordinated response plan, and engaging with stakeholders honestly and authentically, organizations can successfully weather any storm that comes their way.

What is Crisis Communication?

Definition and importance

Crisis communication refers to the strategic management of communication during a crisis or emergency situation. It involves clear and effective communication to stakeholders, including employees, customers, media, and the general public, with the goal of minimizing potential negative impacts on an organization’s reputation and restoring trust.

The importance of crisis communication cannot be overstated. Crises can arise from various situations such as natural disasters, product recalls, data breaches, accidents, or public scandals. These events can quickly damage an organization’s reputation, erode public trust, and lead to financial losses. By having a well-developed crisis communication plan in place, organizations can effectively manage difficult situations, control the narrative, and maintain transparency to protect their brand image.

Types of crises

Crises can vary widely in nature and severity, and it is crucial for organizations to recognize the different types of crises they may face. Common types of crises include natural disasters, technological failures, financial crises, legal issues, public health emergencies, and reputation crises. Each type of crisis requires a unique approach to communication based on its distinct challenges, stakeholders involved, and potential impact on the organization’s reputation and operations.

Goals of crisis communication

The primary goals of crisis communication are to protect and preserve an organization’s reputation, minimize potential negative impacts, and regain public trust. Effective crisis communication aims to provide accurate and timely information, manage public perception, address stakeholder concerns, and minimize speculation and rumors. It also seeks to demonstrate transparency, empathy, and take responsibility when necessary. By achieving these goals, organizations can mitigate reputational harm, maintain customer loyalty, and recover from the crisis more effectively.

Key Elements of an Effective Crisis Comms Strategy


Preparedness is the foundation of an effective crisis communication strategy. It involves proactively identifying potential crises that may impact the organization and developing a comprehensive crisis management plan. This includes establishing clear roles and responsibilities, creating communication protocols, and conducting regular drills and simulations to ensure the readiness of the crisis response team.


In a crisis, time is of the essence. Prompt response is essential to prevent misinformation from spreading and mitigate reputational damage. Organizations must have a well-defined process for assessing and verifying crisis situations and promptly activating the crisis response team. Timeliness also extends to regularly updating stakeholders as the situation unfolds and providing accurate information in a timely manner.


Transparency is a crucial element in crisis communication. Organizations must be open and honest in their communication, sharing relevant and accurate information with stakeholders. Transparency builds trust, as stakeholders appreciate being kept informed during difficult times. Organizations should strive to provide updates on the situation, actions taken, and any potential impact to stakeholders, even if the information is not fully known or certain.


Consistency in messaging is key to maintaining credibility and avoiding confusion during a crisis. Organizations should ensure that all communication channels, including traditional media, social media, websites, and internal platforms, deliver consistent messages to stakeholders. Consistency helps to establish a unified voice and avoid contradictory information that can undermine the organization’s credibility.


Demonstrating empathy is essential during a crisis. It involves understanding and addressing the concerns and emotions of stakeholders. Organizations should acknowledge the impact a crisis may have on individuals and communities, express compassion, and provide assistance where possible. Empathy helps to humanize the organization and foster goodwill, even in difficult times.

Media Relations

Effective media relations play a pivotal role in crisis communication. Organizations should proactively establish relationships with media contacts in advance, providing them with accurate and timely information. Maintaining open lines of communication allows organizations to respond quickly to media inquiries, address concerns effectively, and control the narrative surrounding the crisis. Preparing key spokespersons for interviews and media engagements is also crucial to ensure the delivery of consistent messages.

Internal Communication

Internal communication is often overlooked, but it is a critical component of crisis communication. Organizations must promptly notify employees about the crisis, provide clear guidance and expectations, and offer support and reassurance. Internal briefings and updates should be conducted regularly to keep employees informed and address any rumors or concerns. Engaging employees in the crisis response helps build solidarity and ensures a consistent understanding of the organization’s messaging among all staff members.

Preparation Phase

Identify potential crises

During the preparation phase, organizations must identify potential crises they may face. This can be done by conducting a thorough risk assessment, considering past incidents, and analyzing industry-specific threats. Potential crises may include natural disasters, supply chain disruptions, cyberattacks, product recalls, accidents, or even emerging reputational risks. By identifying these potential crises, organizations can develop preemptive strategies to address them effectively.

Formulate a crisis management team

A crisis management team should be established to handle and coordinate the organization’s response during a crisis. This team should consist of individuals from various departments and levels within the organization, including executives, communications professionals, legal counsel, and subject matter experts. Key roles and responsibilities should be clearly assigned to ensure a coordinated and efficient response.

Develop a crisis communication plan

Once potential crises and the crisis management team are identified, a comprehensive crisis communication plan should be developed. This plan outlines the strategies, tactics, and protocols to be followed during a crisis. It includes key messaging, potential communication channels, designated spokespersons, and contact information for stakeholders and media. The plan should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure its effectiveness and relevance.

Establish media response protocols

Organizations must establish clear protocols for responding to media inquiries during a crisis. This includes designating authorized spokespersons, determining the process for approving and disseminating information, and establishing guidelines for drafting media statements and press releases. By having predefined protocols in place, organizations can respond to media inquiries in a timely and controlled manner, minimizing the risk of miscommunication or inaccurate reporting.

Response Phase

Assess and verify the crisis

In the response phase, organizations must quickly assess and verify the crisis to determine its severity and potential impact. This involves gathering accurate and reliable information from internal and external sources, consulting with relevant experts, and conducting objective assessments. By ensuring the crisis is properly assessed and verified, organizations can tailor their communication strategy to address the specific challenges and needs of the situation.

Determine key messages

Once the crisis is assessed, organizations must determine the key messages they want to convey to stakeholders. These messages should be clear, concise, and relevant, addressing the immediate concerns and providing necessary information. Key messages should align with the organization’s values, demonstrate empathy, and convey a sense of transparency and accountability.

Select appropriate spokesperson

Choosing the right spokesperson is crucial during a crisis. The selected individual should have the necessary knowledge and expertise to address the crisis effectively, as well as the ability to remain calm, empathetic, and composed under pressure. The spokesperson should also have a clear understanding of the organization’s messaging and be well-prepared for media interviews or public appearances.

Craft response materials

During a crisis, organizations must craft response materials such as press releases, media statements, and social media posts. These materials should be aligned with the organization’s key messages and provide accurate and relevant information. Response materials should be carefully drafted, reviewed by the crisis management team and legal counsel, and approved before dissemination to ensure accuracy and consistency.

Activate crisis response team

Once the response materials are ready, the crisis response team should be activated. The team members should be assigned their specific roles and responsibilities outlined in the crisis communication plan. The team should meet regularly to assess the situation, coordinate the response, and ensure that all stakeholders are informed. Prompt and effective activation of the crisis response team is critical to maintaining control and managing the ongoing crisis effectively.

Monitor media and social media

During a crisis, organizations must closely monitor traditional media and social media channels to understand public sentiment, identify misinformation, and gauge the effectiveness of their communication strategies. This monitoring helps organizations to detect any emerging issues, react quickly to new developments, and adjust their messaging or tactics as necessary. By keeping a vigilant eye on media and social media, organizations can address concerns or correct misinformation promptly.

Communication Channels

Traditional media

Traditional media, including newspapers, television, radio, and magazines, remain important channels for crisis communication. Organizations should establish relationships with key journalists and media outlets in advance to ensure accurate reporting and prompt dissemination of information during a crisis. Press releases, media briefings, and interviews with designated spokespersons enable organizations to provide updates to the general public and stakeholders.

Social media

In today’s digital age, social media platforms play a significant role in crisis communication. Organizations should have a strong social media presence and established channels to disseminate accurate and timely information to a wide audience. It is essential to monitor social media discussions, address concerns, correct misinformation, and engage with stakeholders effectively. Social media platforms can also be used to express empathy, provide support, and offer guidance during a crisis.

Company website

A company’s official website is an essential communication channel during a crisis. It should serve as a centralized hub of accurate and up-to-date information for stakeholders. Organizations should ensure that their website is regularly updated with relevant crisis-related content, including press releases, FAQs, hotlines, and links to official statements or resources. A well-designed crisis webpage helps stakeholders find the most reliable information and understand the organization’s response.

Email and newsletters

Email and newsletters are effective channels for communicating with specific audiences, such as employees, customers, or partners, during a crisis. Organizations should utilize these channels to provide personalized updates, address concerns, and offer assistance. Regular communication via email and newsletters helps maintain engagement, build trust, and ensure stakeholders receive the most relevant and accurate information directly from the organization.

Internal communication platforms

Internal communication platforms, such as intranets, collaboration tools, or messaging apps, are essential for communicating with employees during a crisis. Organizations should use these platforms to provide real-time updates, share important documents, and address employee concerns. Internal communication platforms enable organizations to maintain transparency, promote alignment, and foster a sense of belonging among employees during challenging times.

Messaging and Content

Clear and concise messaging

Clear and concise messaging is critical in crisis communication. Organizations should communicate in a way that is easily understood by stakeholders, avoiding jargon or technical terms. Messages should be simple, direct, and free from ambiguity, allowing stakeholders to grasp key information quickly. Using plain language and avoiding complex explanations or extensive details helps to ensure that messages are easily digestible during a crisis.

Addressing stakeholders’ concerns

During a crisis, stakeholders inevitably have concerns and questions. Organizations must address these concerns proactively and transparently. By acknowledging stakeholders’ concerns and providing meaningful responses, organizations can show empathy and build trust. Frequently asked questions (FAQs), public statements, and social media engagement should focus on addressing stakeholders’ concerns and providing accurate information to alleviate their anxieties.

Providing regular updates

Regular updates are essential in crisis communication. Organizations should strive to provide stakeholders with the latest information as the crisis unfolds, even if the situation is fluid or uncertain. Regular updates help keep stakeholders informed, reduce anxiety, and prevent the spread of rumors or misinformation. Organizations should establish a schedule for updates and ensure they are delivered through various communication channels to reach a wide audience.

Correcting misinformation

In a crisis, misinformation can spread rapidly, causing confusion and further escalating the situation. Organizations must actively monitor media and social media channels to identify and correct misinformation promptly. Fact-checking information, engaging with stakeholders directly, and providing accurate and reliable information help to counteract misinformation and maintain trust in the organization’s communication.

Expressing empathy and care

Expressing empathy and care is paramount during a crisis. Organizations should communicate with stakeholders in a compassionate and understanding manner, acknowledging the emotional impact the crisis may have on individuals. Demonstrating empathy reinforces the organization’s commitment to supporting stakeholders and fosters goodwill, helping to rebuild trust even in challenging circumstances.

Media Relations

Establish media contacts in advance

To effectively manage media relations during a crisis, organizations should establish relationships with key journalists and media outlets in advance. Engaging with the media before a crisis occurs helps build trust, ensures accurate reporting, and enhances the organization’s ability to disseminate information promptly. Maintaining open lines of communication with media contacts allows organizations to address inquiries, clarify information, and manage media coverage more effectively.

Maintain open lines of communication

During a crisis, it is crucial to maintain open lines of communication with the media. Promptly responding to media inquiries, whether through interviews, statements, or press releases, demonstrates the organization’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Open communication helps to establish a productive and cooperative relationship with the media, ensuring accurate reporting and fair representation of the organization’s perspective.

Anticipate media inquiries

Organizations should anticipate potential media inquiries during a crisis. By considering the most likely questions or concerns journalists may have, organizations can prepare comprehensive responses in advance. This proactive approach ensures key messages are effectively conveyed and helps spokespersons feel more prepared and confident in their interactions with the media. Anticipating media inquiries also enables organizations to address potential issues before they arise, minimizing negative coverage.

Provide timely and accurate information

Timeliness and accuracy are the cornerstones of effective crisis communication. When addressing media inquiries, organizations must prioritize providing timely and accurate information. This includes being upfront about any limitations or uncertainties surrounding the crisis while emphasizing the steps being taken to gather more information or resolve the situation. Providing timely and accurate information reflects the organization’s commitment to transparency and helps maintain the media’s trust.

Prepare key spokesperson for interviews

Key spokespersons should be adequately prepared for media interviews during a crisis. This preparation includes briefing them on key messages, potential questions, and appropriate responses. Spokespersons should also be trained in effective media communication techniques, such as maintaining composure, active listening, and bridging techniques to redirect the conversation. By preparing key spokespersons, organizations can ensure that their messages are effectively delivered and that media interactions contribute positively to the crisis communication efforts.

Internal Communication

Notify employees promptly

During a crisis, organizations must promptly notify employees about the situation. Through internal communication channels, such as email, intranets, or messaging apps, organizations should provide clear and concise information about the crisis, its impact, and the steps being taken to manage the situation. Prompt notification helps employees feel informed, reassured, and prepared to respond accordingly. Early communication also prevents misinformation or rumors from spreading among employees.

Provide clear guidance and expectations

In a crisis, employees need clear guidance and expectations to navigate the situation effectively. Organizations should communicate specific directives, such as safety procedures, remote work policies, or customer service protocols, to ensure consistency and alignment. Providing clear guidance helps employees understand their roles, responsibilities, and how their work may be impacted. Clarity also helps minimize confusion and ensures a unified response from all employees.

Support and reassure employees

During difficult times, employees may experience heightened anxiety or stress. It is essential for organizations to provide support and reassurance to their employees. Demonstrating empathy, offering counseling services, and providing resources for physical and mental well-being help to alleviate employees’ concerns and foster a sense of care. Regular communication that emphasizes employee support helps maintain morale and productivity during a crisis.

Conduct internal briefings and updates

Internal briefings and updates are crucial in crisis communication. Regular and transparent communication within the organization keeps employees informed about ongoing developments, organizational updates, and any changes that may affect their roles or responsibilities. Internal briefings should involve the crisis response team or key executives, allowing employees to receive accurate information directly from leadership. These updates also provide opportunities for employees to express concerns, ask questions, and receive additional guidance.

Address rumors and concerns

During a crisis, rumors and concerns may circulate among employees. Organizations must address these issues proactively and transparently. Regularly addressing rumors and concerns through internal communications helps dispel misinformation, relay accurate information, and address employee anxieties. By openly addressing and rectifying concerns, organizations can minimize the potential negative impact of rumors on employee morale and overall organizational response.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitor media coverage and social media

Monitoring media coverage and social media conversation is essential in crisis communication. Organizations should actively track media reports, articles, and social media discussions related to the crisis. This monitoring helps to assess the effectiveness of communication strategies, identify any emerging issues or misinformation, and gauge public sentiment. By staying informed, organizations can make informed adjustments to their communication approaches and address concerns promptly.

Track sentiment and public opinion

During a crisis, tracking sentiment and public opinion provides valuable insights into stakeholders’ perceptions and the effectiveness of communication efforts. Organizations should monitor sentiment through social listening tools, surveys, or feedback mechanisms. This helps to identify any negative sentiment or misconceptions that may arise and guides communication strategies towards addressing these concerns. Tracking public opinion allows organizations to gauge the overall success of their crisis communication efforts and make necessary adjustments.

Evaluate effectiveness of communication strategies

Periodic evaluation of the effectiveness of communication strategies is crucial to continually improve crisis communication efforts. Organizations should assess whether their messages were clear, accurate, and conveyed the desired tone during the crisis. They should also evaluate the reach and impact of their communication through media coverage, social media engagement, and feedback from stakeholders. By analyzing the effectiveness of their communication strategies, organizations can identify strengths and areas for improvement in crisis communication planning and execution.

Identify areas for improvement

Through comprehensive evaluation, organizations can identify areas for improvement in their crisis communication strategies. This includes addressing any communication gaps, improving response times, seeking feedback from stakeholders, or refining messaging to better address concerns. An ongoing commitment to learning from experiences and continually enhancing crisis communication capabilities is essential for organizations to be well-prepared for future crises.

Learning from Crises

Conduct post-crisis analysis

After a crisis has been resolved, organizations should conduct a post-crisis analysis to review their crisis communication efforts. This analysis involves assessing the effectiveness of the crisis communication plan, evaluating the accuracy and timeliness of response, and examining the organization’s overall response to the crisis. By conducting a thorough analysis, organizations can gain insights into areas that require improvement and implement corrective measures.

Review crisis communication plan

Post-crisis, organizations should review their crisis communication plan to ensure it remains relevant and effective. This includes revisiting potential crises, refining roles and responsibilities, updating contact information, and incorporating lessons learned. A comprehensive review of the crisis communication plan helps organizations adapt to new challenges, emerging risks, or industry-specific trends, enhancing the organization’s preparedness for future crises.

Implement lessons learned

Lessons learned from crises should be incorporated into the organization’s crisis communication strategy. This includes updating protocols, refining messaging, enhancing media relations strategies, and improving internal communication channels. By implementing lessons learned, organizations can rectify weaknesses, build on strengths, and continuously improve their crisis communication capabilities.

Update crisis response protocols

Based on the lessons learned, organizations should update their crisis response protocols. This includes revising communication guidelines, adjusting media response procedures, updating designated spokespersons, and incorporating new technologies or communication platforms. By regularly reviewing and updating crisis response protocols, organizations ensure they remain agile and well-prepared to effectively handle crises in the future.

In conclusion, crisis communication is a vital component of effective organizational management. By understanding the definition, types, and goals of crisis communication, organizations can develop comprehensive strategies to minimize reputational harm and regain public trust. The key elements of an effective crisis communication strategy, such as preparedness, timeliness, transparency, consistency, empathy, media relations, and internal communication, provide organizations with a solid foundation for managing crises successfully. Through thorough preparation, swift and transparent responses, effective messaging and monitoring, organizations can navigate crises, protect their reputation, and emerge stronger. Learning from crises through analysis, plan review, implementing lessons learned, and updating crisis response protocols ensures organizations are well-equipped to handle future crises with confidence.

Similar Posts