Crisis Communication Planning

Nov 18, 2015


Crisis Communication Planning

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” When it comes to crisis management, having a plan set in place can either make or break your outcome. As a PR Professional, we want to ensure that you are well prepared to tackle a plethora of situations. Do you have the right crisis management tools in your back pocket? Let’s find out.

Crisis Communication Planning

What is the difference between a problem and a crisis? We’re glad you asked. A problem is something that is commonplace, rather predictable, and can be fixed within a limited time frame. A crisis, however,  is often unpredictable and requires a significant amount of resources to resolve. A crisis often attracts unwanted public attention, and may pose as a safety threat to the public and the environment.

You can minimize damage and reduce the time of the impact if you are truly prepared. It can be difficult to identify the warning signs of an upcoming crisis, which is why we’ve formulated 4 key steps to help you to manage a future crisis both efficiently and effectively.

Step 1

The first step in Crisis Communication Planning is to identify various threats to your organization and its processes. We often refer to this as risk assessment. Once you have successfully identified the risks, you can take further steps to reduce or eliminate it. In the first phase of planning, you also want to form a Crisis Planning Team. Be sure to include your legal counsel, employees, and leaders.

Step 2 Crisis Communication Planning

The second step in Crisis Communication Planning is to develop a plan that includes strategies for the risks you have identified in step 1. This plan should include a couple of specific things. Be sure to include a Crisis Definition. Are you dealing with a problem or an actual crisis? Be as detailed as possible. Also, be sure to include a  list of people that will manage the crisis. These members will serve as your “Crisis Management Team.” This could include your CEO, PR counsel, tech experts, financial counsel, and other supporting members.

Your plan should additionally include a list of stakeholders to communicate with, those involved with emergency operations, and media information. How will you use the internet to convey your message? How will you train your employees? These are all questions that should be answered in your Crisis Communication Plan.

Step 3

This step focuses on your response to the situation at hand. Execution of the plan takes place. If you have minimized or eliminated threats and have reviewed and practiced your plan, your response will prove more successful than not. Just like driving a car, practice is necessary to become well prepared for the big test. Step three is a critical stage in the Crisis Communication process. Here, it is important that someone takes charge, anticipates questions, develops key messages, and sticks to the facts. Above all else, KEEP CALM. Have confidence in the prior planning you have done, and know that you are well prepared and qualified to tackle the issue.

 Step 4

This stage deals with recovery. Once the plan has been executed, it is essential to take a step back and review how the crisis was handled. Feedback is important. In order to do so, it is helpful to reflect on whether or not your actions were in line with your goals. See what worked and what didn’t. In doing so, you can improve your Crisis Communication Plan for the future.


For any PR Professional, it is very beneficial to have a plan put into place. You hope that you never have to use it, but if you do, you are well prepared to tackle any given crisis, at any given point in time.