Crisis Communication and its Key Concepts & Strategies
By Sarah Birmingham

Crisis communication refers to the strategic communication efforts undertaken by organizations, government agencies, or individuals to manage and mitigate the impact of a crisis or emergency.

Effective crisis communication is crucial for maintaining public trust, ensuring public safety, and preserving the reputation and credibility of the entity involved. Here are some key concepts and strategies for crisis communication:

Preparedness and Planning
Develop a comprehensive crisis communication plan well in advance of any potential crisis. This plan should outline roles and responsibilities, communication channels, and key messages.
Identify potential crises that could affect your organization and conduct risk assessments to understand their potential impact.

Clear and Timely Information
Communicate information promptly and transparently to the public and stakeholders. Avoid delays or withholding critical information.
Provide accurate and verified information to avoid rumors and misinformation from spreading.

Spokespersons and Media Relations
Designate trained and credible spokespersons who can convey information clearly and empathetically to the media and the public.
Establish relationships with key media outlets to facilitate accurate reporting during a crisis.

Consistent Messaging
Maintain consistent messaging across all communication channels to avoid confusion or contradictory information.
Tailor messages to different audiences, including employees, customers, investors, and the general public.

Empathy and Compassion
Show empathy and concern for those affected by the crisis. Acknowledge their concerns and emotions.
Express commitment to resolving the situation and preventing future crises.

Social Media and Online Presence
Monitor social media platforms and online discussions to address concerns and correct misinformation.
Use social media as a tool for disseminating information but do so responsibly and authentically.

Legal and Ethical Considerations
Be aware of legal and ethical responsibilities when communicating during a crisis, including privacy regulations and obligations to protect sensitive information.

Training and Simulation
Conduct regular training exercises and simulations to ensure that your crisis communication team is well-prepared and can respond effectively under pressure.

Aftermath and Recovery
Continue communication efforts even after the crisis has passed. Update stakeholders on recovery efforts and lessons learned.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your crisis communication response and make improvements for the future.

Continuous Improvement
Use each crisis as an opportunity to learn and improve your crisis communication plan and processes.

Effective crisis communication can help an organization navigate challenging situations while preserving its reputation and minimizing harm to stakeholders. It requires careful planning, empathy, and a commitment to transparency and accountability.

Some Resources for Crisis Communication

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC): IABC provides resources, articles, and case studies related to crisis communication, helping professionals stay updated on industry trends.

The Institute for Public Relations (IPR): IPR offers research, insights, and publications on various aspects of public relations, including crisis communication. Their library of research papers is a valuable resource.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): FEMA guides crisis communication planning and response, particularly for organizations dealing with natural disasters or emergencies.

The International Crisis Management Conference (ICMC): ICMC hosts an annual conference and offers resources related to crisis management and communication. Their events often feature experts sharing practical insights.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): While focused on health crises, the CDC provides valuable resources and guidelines for crisis communication that can be adapted to various situations.

Books: Several books on crisis communication offer in-depth guidance and case studies. Some recommended titles include:

Crisis Communications in Canada: A Practical Approach
by John E. C. Cooper

Crisis Communication: Practical PR Strategies for Reputation Management and Company Survival
by Kathleen Fearn-Banks

The Crisis Manager: Facing Disasters, Conflicts, and Failures
by Otto Lerbinger

Effective Crisis Communication: Moving from Crisis to Opportunity
by Robert R. Ulmer, Timothy L. Sellnow, and Matthew W. Seeger

Remember that crisis communication is a dynamic field, and staying updated on the latest trends and best practices is crucial. Additionally, it’s beneficial to engage with industry associations, attend relevant conferences or webinars, and participate in crisis communication training exercises to enhance your skills and readiness for handling crises effectively.

Crises Communication is one of the public relations activities we do. Give us a call at 780.819.0095.